Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

Haitian custodian misses home, dreams of pursuing college degree

Look at these hands." Josue LaJeunesse holds out calloused, pealing hands. "My hands never looked like this before. I work really hard."

And he does.


A building services janitor from Haiti, LaJeunesse leaves his Mercerville home between five and six every morning and returns between midnight and one a.m. His work 'day' is divided between custodial work in both Pyne Hall and at Educational Testing Services in Princeton.

"I have no free time. I am always busy – working two jobs is not easy. I often work seven days a week," he said.

LaJeunesse came to the United States in July of 1989 to visit his girlfriend and never returned to Haiti. "I left Haiti, my job in Haiti, working in a warehouse. I left my job, everything," he said.

Far from home

At the mention of his family in Haiti – his parents, two sisters and two brothers – LaJeunesse's eyes light up. "I cannot tell you how much. I cannot count it," he said of the amount he misses them. "We talk about once a week on the phone."

"Life was beautiful until 1986," LaJeunesse said, referring to the time when Haitian government was plagued with political problems. "So many things have happened. I hope it will be changed. Only one person (alone) can do nothing for their country. Everyone has to put their hands together, cooperate and have a piece," he said.

LaJeunesse's English is good, in large part because he attained fluency in English, Spanish, French and Creole, along with "a little bit of Latin and Greek" in his Haitian high school.


After finishing high school, LaJeunesse attended two years of college and became an officer in a military warehouse. He said he would like to go back to school, though that dream is difficult to realize. "It is totally different (in the United States) because you have to start in a new system. You don't know a lot of stuff yet. It is hard to fix yourself in the system," he said.

LaJeunesse plans to "set up here and go back to school. When you have it, you will be able to do anything. . . . I like so many things – computer stuff, mechanical stuff," he said. The main obstacle for him, he said, has been saving enough money.

LaJeunesse said he appreciates the freedom he sees in American life. "If anyone here wants to do something, for your future, you can do it. There is a big opportunity to educate yourself. You can be a doctor, engineer, anything if you want to," he said.

In the meantime, he said, "(Princeton) is the best place to work. Knowledge. Respect. Students. It is very nice. The students are very nice. They are the future of this country. They say, 'Hi. How are you doing? Working hard today?' I say, 'Yes. I'm always working hard.' "

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »