WAYZATA, Minn. (WCCO) — So often at a school, it’s the principal, teacher or a faculty member who’s getting recognized for helping kids.

But in Wayzata’s Central Middle School, a janitor is getting special homecoming honors for steering kids in the right direction.

Mike Poke has worked as a custodian for more than 12 years. But his duties go way beyond mopping floors and cleaning classrooms.

“A lot of kids like coming up to me in the hallways and hollering my name out loud, ‘Mike! Mr. Mike!’ And it’s a good feeling,” he said. “But to me it’s all about the kids. It’s not about me, it’s about the kids.”

And he means it. Poke is part of the “Boys To Men” program that helps high-risk kids set goals. If they achieve their goals he buys them lunch. And if teachers are having a tough day in class, it’s Poke they call on for a classroom pep talk.

On Friday night, before Wayzata’s homecoming game, Poke will finally be recognized in front of the fans and the players whose live he’s touched over the years.

One of them is Saul Eugene, a nose guard on the Wayzata football team and the student who nominated Poke for Friday night’s award.

“The more I learned about him the more I loved him,” Eugene said. “He’s just a great guy.”

The feeling is mutual.

“If I had another son, I’d like him to be just like him too. Because Saul is one good kid,” Poke said.

Like he has done with so many kids, Poke’s built a special bond with Eugene — even coming in on his day off to give him a pep talk before Friday’s game. It’s further proof that sometimes the best teachers don’t even have a classroom of their own.

“You can know somebody from the outside and know they are a great person,” Eugene said. “But then when you know them from the inside, you can see just how amazing somebody really is.”

Poke will be honored as part of faculty appreciation night before the game against Edina. He and Eugene will stand on the 49 yard line together. Forty-nine is Eugene’s jersey number.


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