To her, they are all “my kids.”
To them, she is “Miss Brenda” the overnight custodian at Tulane Law School’s Weinmann Hall, the nice lady with a listening ear and words of encouragement.
In law school, that kindness matters. The work is complex and the hours are long. You get to know the friendly faces as you study late into the night.
And so, after months of taking an interest in “her kids” and their studies, Brenda Tate shared with Marissa Kinsey, a first-year law student, that she had a tragedy in her life recently. Her granddaughter’s husband was killed in a robbery, and now, in addition to working long nights, she was her 7-month-old great-granddaughter’s caretaker during the day, too.
“She said that seeing the students and the students talking to her makes her love coming to work every night,” Kinsey said, adding that “hearing all of this instantly made me want to do something for her so I reached out to the 1L class.”
Within 24 hours, Kinsey said, the first-year law Class of 2023 had raised almost $1,500 for Tate, with others purchasing flowers, cards and baby things for their Miss Brenda. Then a group of them including Kinsey, Matthew Snider, Nick Olivencia, Michael Chigbu, and 2L Koby Koosom, and a few others, snuck in all the goodies just before Tate came to work late Thursday. They were on the lookout.
“Oh, you are all going to make me cry,” Tate says in a short video the students took as they surprised her.
“They shocked me, they really shocked me,” said Tate. “No one ever did something that nice for me. My husband said, ‘they must be crazy, or they really love you.’ I think they really love me.”
As Tate tells it, she has taken a regular, motherly interest in “the kids” as she interacts with them while cleaning the classrooms each night and enjoys bucking them up when they are feeling stressed or overloaded.
“I tell them get in there and study, and then to be careful going home,” she said. “I want to make them feel welcome. They are so far away from home, and they don’t have their parents around. So I just try to keep an eye on them.”
And that she does well.
She warns them about safety, “lock up your cars” and about making sure they study, “Get in there and study, your parents are going to be mad if you don’t,” and about getting rest, “ya’ll remember to eat and sleep, you hear?”
She reassures them that they will do well on exams, graduate, and go on to successful careers.
But in truth, she gets as much back.
“They are the reason I get up and go to work every day,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them, I’m not sure I’d go in!”
And the gift will come in so handy. She is the only one working right now, as her husband has been sick.
“They touched my heart.”