“Cool.” “Chill.” “Easy to talk to.” These were all words various student workers at Webb and Fluor Towers used to describe charismatic maintenance worker Oziel “Ozzy” Albarran. Despite being much older than most of the students he meets, Albarran is beloved by residents for his easygoing demeanor and genuine desire to connect.
“He feels just like another student. It’s just easy to talk to him,” said Gina Ibrahim, a junior double majoring in psychology and cognitive science.
Albarran, 30, frequently chats with student workers at Fluor and Webb Towers when he is not busy with work. From helping students get haircuts to giving out life advice, many students have a story to tell about Albarran and how he has helped them through rough patches, or simply made their day a little more entertaining.
Albarran has been especially influential to junior Rubi Garcia, an American studies major. Albarran helped Garcia realize how fortunate she was to be studying abroad, even though she will be going to Chile instead of her first choice, Brazil. This happened one day by accident when Garcia was on her way to work at the check-in desk at Webb Tower, and Albarran ran into her and realized something was on her mind.
“Even though what he said was common sense, at the moment I guess just hearing how right he was, that basically just made my whole day,” Garcia said. “He really does know the students, like he automatically picked up that something was wrong with me.”
Adrian Johnson, a sophomore majoring in business administration who also works at Fluor and Webb Towers, said Albarran once gave him dating advice. On another occasion, Albarran even helped Johnson with his hair.
“My hair was real bad; it was real nappy. He took me down to his barber shop on Central Avenue, and his barber hooked me up. It was a good time,” Johnson said.
Albarran, has been a custodian at Fluor and Webb Towers for the entire seven years he has worked at USC, starting when he was 23 years old. Albarran said he chose to work at USC because they offer employees tuition benefits, but he truly enjoys the college atmosphere and being surrounded by so many young people all the time.
Albarran once helped junior Raul Alcantar, a cinema and television production major who is a student supervisor at Fluor and Webb Towers, complete an assignment on how immigrants assimilate into America. Albarran was born in Mexico and came to the United States when he was eight months old.
“So I did an interview on him, how he came to the U.S. He actually sat down and opened up about his whole experience,” Alcantar said.
Family has also been an important aspect of Albarran’s life. He is currently raising two sons who both attend school in Los Angeles. Albarran is working hard to make sure they will have the financial means to go wherever they want for college.
“If I graduated from here it would be awesome if my two kids graduated from here, just to keep it going,” Albarran said.
Albarran has been going to college for a year and a half. Currently, he attends night classes at Santa Monica College. Though he chose to major in accounting because it has a relatively high level of job security, Albarran said he originally considered industrial design.
In the future, Albarran plans to transfer to USC, where he aims to focus specifically on his core accounting courses. He hopes to be done with school by the time he is 35.
“My oldest son would be about 12, and my little guy would be 10. They’ll be old enough where, even if I have to work like a billion hours, they won’t really miss me,” Albarran said.
Seeing student life at USC when he first started working is what Albarran said actually inspired him to go back to school. Through his job, he was able to witness the fun side of college and realized that it was not all studying. Speaking with students also altered Albarran’s perception that college is only for “super geniuses.” He realized that if the people he met here could earn college degrees, then so could he.
Albarran said he feels grateful to his family members for being his support network and allowing him to easily juggle work, family and school. Though he has a lot on his plate, Albarran said he does not usually feel overwhelmed because he always tries to look at the bigger picture.
“Life is pretty easy,” Albarran said. “We just choose to make it difficult.”
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