She jokes that she’s been around longer than the trees. Well, not exactly, but longer than The Guild for Human Services has been naming its Guild School homes for trees rather than street names, a tradition that began several years ago.

During Aise Calixte’s 20 years as a residential assistant at The Guild, the woman affectionately known as “Mamacita” has worked with hundreds of students ages 6 through their 22nd birthday, tending to each one as if they were her own. “They treat me like I’m their mother,” she explains in an interview at Sassafras House in Watertown. “I know it’s not easy to put a child in this program. If I had a child here, I would want them to be treated well.”

Aise, a native of Haiti, builds deep relationships with many of the students. She recalls one student who was having a particularly difficult time coping with a powerful thunderstorm during her absence. She arrived, greeted the student and he immediately calmed down. “I’m not sure why that happened,” Aise says. “I don’t know my secret.”

She teaches her students the activities of daily life that will permit them to live independently as they get older – cooking meals, cleaning their rooms, doing their laundry and making grocery lists. They are sometimes reluctant at first, particularly when it comes to keeping their rooms neat, but Aise’s assistance and gentle prodding typically helps. “Some kids you know they can do it but they are a little hesitant,” she says. “They just need to be reminded.”

Before coming to The Guild in 1998, Aise worked as a visiting nurse, but her career path took a different direction two decades ago. “All of a sudden, I had an urge to work with kids,” she explains. “I didn’t put myself here. I don’t know who did.”

From the day she first arrived at The Guild, she has shown a deep commitment to the students.

“Aise has demonstrated her love for our students day in and day out for the past two decades,” says Mark Boilard, senior director of residential services. “She is a model staff member.”