A custodian who works with the Lakeland Central School District is being called a hero after recently rushing to help a third-grade student who was choking during lunch.
Angelo Alessandro, who has worked part-time at George Washington Elementary School since September 2019 and also works full-time at New-York Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital as an MRI tech aide, noticed on April 20 a student was in distress and then realized the boy wasn’t breathing as his bottom lip was turning blush.
“As soon as I saw the purple lips, and the student was not breathing, I took action right away,” Alessandro said. “I knew right away he was choking.”
Alessandro pulled food out of the student’s mouth and performed an abdominal thrust maneuver, which led to more food being dislodged and a return to normal breathing.
“I wanted him to breathe. That’s all I wanted him to do,” he recalled. “I was just focused on doing what I had to do to get him breathing again.”
The student was taken to the nurse, and later returned to the cafeteria.
“When I saw the student come back and say, ‘thank you’, I said, ‘Thank God he’s fine,’” Alessandro said. “I was thankful this kid was breathing again.”
George Washington’s Principal Dr. Tracy Norman was thankful for Alessandro’s efforts.
“I am proud of him,” Norman said. “It speaks to his character. It is humbling to have a custodian go above and beyond and do such a heroic thing, putting others before himself. That’s a true sign of a hero and I’m certainly proud of him for that.”
“I’m grateful we had Angelo here that day, and I’m grateful he took the initiative to be a human being and help another human being,” Norman added.
Alessandro, who has two adult children, said he treats the students at school as he would his own.
“Kids are kids and I would do anything for them, whatever they need,” he said. “If they need my help, I’ll help in any situation. It felt great that people appreciated what I did.”