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Checking in with Charles

By Jasmin Jani


Musician, father and New Hyde Park Memorial custodial staff member Charles Purnell was interviewed regarding his interests, hobbies and experiences.


Source by Darsh Mirchandani

Custodial staff member Charles Purnell remains an integral part of New Hyde Park Memorial's community.


Q: How long have you been at NHP?

Mr. Charles Purnell: I have been working here at NHP for 23 years. I have actually had three different titles since I have been here. I started off as an aide. I was taking care of a boy named Chris Cazazza. I took care of him for four years. When he graduated, I went to Floral Park for a month, and thanks to the old principal here, Mr. DiMartino, he told me there was an opening back here at New Hyde Park and asked if I wanted to come back. I was like, “Of course I do.” So, I stayed at Floral Park for a month. [Then,] I came back here and I was on security because I have my security license. So I did security for two years, and then there was an opening for custodial. I went to the interview like everyone else and I got the job. I have been doing custodial now, actually, October 23 will mark 17 years.


Q: What are your hobbies and why?

CP: My hobby is music. I make music, I create music, I also DJ. A couple years back I did the junior prom here. That’s actually my comfort zone. I could be having a bad day, just things aren't going right at work or whatever. I could go home and work on some music; it just calms me down. Turn off all the phones and just relax.


Q: Why did you decide to become a custodian?

CP: First of all, the pay was better, the benefits were better such as health insurance, dental insurance and longevity, such as a pension.


Q: What is your overall experience as a custodian?

CP: Before I worked here, I worked for New York City Parks And Recreation and I used to clean parks and the swimming pools in the city, so I already had experience dealing with maintenance.


Q: How did you end up DJing?

CP: That's kind of funny. I was about ten years old. I lived in Queens and my cousin lived in Manhattan. Every weekend we would go back to Manhattan during the summertime when school was out. That’s when hip-hop was being created; it was about 1978 or 1977. Around that time they used to do all of these jams, which they called “Jams.” They used to do parties in the park, open up the light poll, connect wires to get electricity and have all of the DJs outside. It intrigued me. I was like, “Wow, this is something I would love to do.” So as I went back to Queens, I realized that it was different bureaus doing the same thing. I got with a guy that lived around the corner from me and I told him that, “I want you to teach me how to do this,” and he actually taught the ins-and-outs and the basics. I would go to his house every other day and learn. When I got a little older, I got a summer job and I saved up my money. My grandmother helped me, I got my own DJing equipment, and from there I just kept going. I’ve been doing it now for a long time.


Q: What were some of your gigs?

CP: I had a lot of gigs. I have done weddings, sweet sixteens, block parties, corporate things and I have DJed here at the school.


Q: What was your favorite gig?

CP: I have had a couple of favorite gigs. I did a gig, it was a corporate gig for a company called “Tough Mudder,” where there would be over five thousand people, and they would run through mud in an obstacle course, play games and stuff. I did that for about three years all over the country. I was the tri-state DJ, which means I DJed for them in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. But after the pandemic they went out of business, and I was so sad because it was a great gig, I loved doing that.


Q: Are you DJing for NHP’s senior prom?

CP: I wish I was doing the senior prom. I would love to DJ for some of the seniors here. Some of the people know that I DJ, but I would love to show my talents. I want to give a big shout-out to Mr. Ferrara because he’s a great DJ that works here as well. Me and him team up and exchange music together, call each other on the phone, send emails, MP3s and stuff like that.


Q: How did you see changes in your character during your time at NHP?

CP:I have seen a lot of changes. From where I live to where I grew up and just seeing a lot of things in my community, good and bad. And being a father of three girls, just seeing that, you have to be changing with the times; you can't just be stuck in one era. You can't be stuck just thinking that you're always going to be the same age and still live like you're living. It’s all good living in your youth, but you have to be a better person for you and your family. My character here is just being around good people, people that will always have my back, [who] aren’t afraid to tell you if you’re doing something wrong. If you are doing something wrong, a good friend will always let you know you’re doing something wrong because they don’t want you to make the mistake over and over again. I appreciate being here for the time I'm here, and I consider NHP as my family; it’s a blessing to be here.

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