Technical Area 55 at Los Alamos National Laboratory includes some of the most secure facilities in the nation, including the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building, where more than 400 employees find themselves in and out of on any given day. For that building and others in the same area, Hermelinda Coronado is well known for conducting her work as a member of the janitorial staff with excellence, integrity — and an ever-present smile.
Coronado has been at the Lab for 10 years, having worked at TA-55 for the bulk of that decade. Before that, she supervised a crew at a local hotel. For Coronado, getting used to the security at the Lab was the biggest shift coming from hotel service.
“At the beginning it was really hard. There was a lot to remember and figure out,” she says. “People in my type of work aren’t used to that! But now I think it’s the best place to be — it’s a popular place to work, and unique because people all over the country know what we do here.”
Hailing from Durango, Mexico, Coronado came to visit family in New Mexico nearly 40 years ago and never left. She is married with three adult children, one of whom also works at TA-55 as a member of Protective Force.
While she visits Durango every so often, she’s truly made New Mexico her home and describes it as an easy place to live. “It’s similar to Mexico here,” she says. “Mexico is a very happy place: there’s always music, parties and celebrations. New Mexico celebrates in a lot of the same ways, like for birthdays and Cinco de Mayo.”
That sense of happiness comes across in everything Coronado does at work. Employees who work in the buildings where she serves know that she’s on it — from trash removal to vacuuming to other custodial services, she gets it done before anyone notices it’s needed.
More than that, though, they know that she is always there with a smile. It’s not uncommon for a TA-55 employee to have their day brightened the moment their office trash is emptied. Not because of the empty trash can, but because of the genuine kindness that Coronado brings to every interaction.
She can also be seen training and mentoring new members of her crew, even though that’s not formally a part of her job responsibility. She wants her team to be prepared and work together to get the job done well.
“I’m proud of my job, and it’s important to me that my crew works as a team,” Coronado says. “It comes naturally to me to be kind.”