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Jimmy Perez

"I am 29. I was raised in apartments in the northwest part of town, but in the summers I spent a lot of time with my grandmother on the Northside, in the Heights. I still live in the Northside.
 
I only have one younger brother - I'm the oldest. It's just my mom and my dad, and that's pretty much it. We're a small family. 
 
I have a strict mother, so she always made sure that I didn't mess up. But I always tended to find myself being suspended from school. But not for bad reasons, I would say, but I was always at the wrong place at the wrong time because I was just hanging around with the wrong folks. But I did grow up generating income my own way. I get that from my mother; she had her own cleaning business. I used to sell colognes, perfumes. I used to save up money so I could buy gold or jewelry so I could sell around Christmastime and Valentine's day to my friends. I used to record music - I used to rap and produce music, too. I used to sell my CDs for five dollars. I always aspired to generate ideas and put them into business and generate income. That led me to go to school for business, entrepreneurship and small business management. I got my bachelor's from DeVry University; I graduated in the fall of 2008. 
 
As soon as I graduated, I started working. It was basically to help an electrical contractor with some of his needs in the office. I worked there for about six months and then found myself unemployed again. This time around I was really searching to see what my next steps were going to be, so I asked myself the question, 'what is it that I want to do with my life?' And I said, 'well, something that comes naturally and easy for me is that I love helping people out.' So the first thing that popped in my mind was non-profits. I Googled 'non-profit Houston' and United Way Houston showed up so I clicked on their website. And going through trying to see if they're hiring or what it is that they did, I came across a community job bank. I started going through the list, and I found SER. They needed a Computer Trainer for Microsoft Office. And so I said 'you know what? I know quite a lot about Microsoft.' I clicked on SER's website and I said 'wow, this organization is doing a lot of great things.' So I went ahead and applied.
 
I didn’t get considered for the job, so I continued my job search, and it was tough. It was around the time that the job market went down, back in 2008, 2009. I ended up working for the US Census. Then after the Census, I was working random little jobs. Then in 2011, I got an email about SER, indicating that there was going to be a job fair, and this employer was going to be there. So I came to SER to apply, and turns out that the employer never showed up. But one staff member approached me and said 'have you ever been here before?' I said 'no, actually.' She said 'have you pursued any training?' I said 'no, I've never pursued any training.' She said 'OK, would you like to speak with a navigator who can share with you how we can help you?' I said 'sure.' 
 
So she gave me an intake form, and I filled it out. Then I spoke with Margarita [Flores, SER Client Service Navigator]. She said 'well, it says here that you want to apply for all these trainings,' and I said 'yeah, I would like to learn how to be successful in the construction industry.' I chose the weatherization training and home energy rating training. She checked my application, and asked if I was able to come in the next day because the class was starting. I was eligible, got selected, and started my training in the beginning of 2011. By the summertime I had my credentials for weatherization and home energy rating.
 
I was searching for employment so I contacted one of my peers who graduated from one of my SER trainings and she said she was working already as a project manager. She said 'there's a position opening up here, and I can take you under my wing and train you to be a superintendent.' I said 'cool, who do I need to speak with?' And she says, 'you need to go back and speak with SER, so that they can connect you with this employer, because that's how I got connected.' [At SER] they said 'we’re going to see if we can get you interviewed by [the construction company].' And they did.
 
I came and interviewed, and I got hired on the spot for the superintendent position. I started the following day. I worked within construction by managing multiple projects around Houston and also in Louisiana. But then I came back to work here in Houston, and there was a gap in between two projects. They had me working on a smaller project, but it wasn't going to be stable. So I said 'OK, there's really nothing looking good in this little project here, and I don't know if I want to continue waiting for the next project.' And at that time I had found out that I was going to be a father. 
 
That's when I got an email from my career coach, Catalina [Sanchez, SER Program Coordinator]. She emailed me saying 'are you still looking for work? There's a position that opened up at SER. We think that you're an ideal candidate; you got the experience, you got the education. If you're interested, apply and let me know when you do.' I looked at the job description, and I said 'yeah, I can do this,' because at the job, where I was superintendent, our teams of workers were coming from SER's programs. So I had a lot of experience working with the students. I was coaching them, I was signing their timesheets, asking them why they arrived late. I was always telling them 'we came through this program, let's not make this program look bad.' So I applied, and they ended up selecting me at the end of the month. I started working on May 28, 2013, and I've been working here since then.
 
I started off as a Navigator, and then I transitioned to a Career Coach for HYPE. Then I had seen that there was a position that was opening up, a leadership position for the Navigation services, so I applied. I got that position and transitioned late last year to Community Outreach Navigator. That's pretty much the journey. 
 
SER has provided me hope. Because even before, when I applied for that teacher position and I didn't get it, I was hopeful. I thought 'wow, this is a good agency; I want to work here.' And so there was hope at that time in my mind. I was hoping that I would work here. Working here has allowed me to actually look at it in all different levels. I'm still hopeful that I'm still going to be helping and being part of the solution and instilling hope in others. I'm hopeful for what's to come, and what's coming in the future with SER. 
 
My short term goal is really to continue building relationships and continue learning. I don't want to stop learning. But I can't do everything by myself. SER can't do everything by itself. We ultimately need to keep building relationships and making sure that we're growing to meet the community's needs. 
 
I would say my mid-term goal would be leading a team. What kind of team, I'm not sure, but leading the team, and providing so much support to it to make sure that we meet goals and are able to enjoy what we're doing. Every day is rewarding when you can see that people are getting hired and that people are able to generate income to feed their families. 
 
Long-term goal, ultimately, I just hope to be able to build myself up. Because I'm still learning. Perhaps eventually, like I said, expand and have my own business one day. And what that business could be, ultimately it has to revolve around giving back in one way or the other. That business concept of helping transform communities and providing employment opportunities. That's exactly where I see myself long term."