This is the first installment in a new Knightly News series about the men and women who work behind the scenes at North: the janitors, security guards, secretaries, mechanics and cashiers who make the school tick.
This month, The Knightly News caught up with Brandon Stewart and Wesley Peña, security guards who monitor the front entrance as part of WW-P’s Eyes on Doors program. Stewart and Peña are employees of the Davis Group, the security company to which the district outsources Eyes on Doors.
Every morning, Brandon Stewart, an Iraq veteran who has worked here since February, commutes to North from Philadelphia. Between 7am and 3pm, Stewart, 29, sits at a desk near the front entrance to sign visitors in and deter potential intruders. “It can be boring sometimes,” he said, “but I understand it serves a purpose.”
To stay entertained, Stewart completes crossword puzzles and reads about sports and politics in the Philadelphia Daily News. He roots for the Philadelphia sports teams, he said, with one notable exception: “I’m a Redskins fan at heart.”
In 2006, shortly after graduating from college, Stewart enlisted in the US Army; a few months later, he was deployed to Iraq, where he worked as a military police officer for 15 months. Stewart returned to the United States in 2008 to serve the remainder of his term at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
Stewart said his military service has changed his perspective on current events. Before enlisting, “I really didn’t know too much about the world,” he said. “You don’t really get that feeling until you’ve ventured outside the US and experienced different things.”
Wesley Peña likes working at North for two reasons: Virtually everyone here seems to participate in an afterschool activity, and virtually no one gets into fights. Last year, when he was stationed at a high school in Burlington County, Peña broke up about three fights a week.
Peña, 20, works the afternoon and evening shifts, monitoring the entranceway until every student has left the building. “If you let it get boring, then yeah, it’ll get boring,” he said. “But if you move around, try to talk to people, it helps kill some time.”
“In an instant something could happen,” he added. “Your shift could be boring and then, all of a sudden, that last hour, something crazy could happen.”
Peña, a professional boxer who competes in about three matches a year, hopes to get involved in criminal justice if his athletic career doesn’t pan out. “I always know there’s a chance at injury, so that’s why I always pursue a realistic goal, a safe backup plan,” he said. “My dad’s a captain of a prison, so I think it would be pretty cool to reach that or even higher.”
In his spare time, Peña plays videogames like “Call of Duty” and watches football and basketball on TV. He coaches boxing at his local gym and recently gave lessons to his 6-year-old nephew. “I started training him just so he knows how to defend himself,” Peña said, “so he doesn’t get bullied in school.”
David Yaffe-Bellany is a reported based in San Francisco.
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