SER-Jobs for Progress—Improving Lives...One Job at a Time.

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Latest Blog Posts

SER Welcomes Interim CEO

Posted January 19

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff at SER-Jobs for Progress, Inc., we are pleased to introduce SER’s... Read more...

Start 2018 with a new career! SER is Now Enrolling!

Posted December 21

Participate in a hands-on training and get help finding employment.  Complete the on-line application ... Read more...

Nory Angel, SER CEO, to leave organization in 2018

Posted December 11

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff at SER-Jobs for Progress, Inc., we would like to share with you that Nory... Read more...

Joseph Woods

Inspirational speaker, bodyguard to the stars, supportive family man, certified professional, and SER alumni: roles Joseph Woods never would have pictured himself in 25 years ago as he sat in a prison cell. 

Growing up in Houston’s 5th Ward, life was never easy for Joseph. Along with his six brothers and two sisters, he was raised by a single mom, and eventually went to live with his grandmother.

“Growing up in poverty is hard,” said Joseph, now 45. "I remember really struggling."

Peer pressure played a large part in Joseph’s journey into criminal activities. Envious of friends in their nice clothes and sneakers, Joseph decided to start selling drugs when he was 14 in an effort to better fit in. At 15, Joseph was charged with drug possession and dropped out of school.

“I didn’t really value education at the time,” said Joseph, “it was more about the hustle.”

The judge who oversaw his case sent Joseph to Gulf Coast Trade Center in New Waverly, TX for punishment and rehabilitation. While there, Joseph learned general construction skills.

“On completion of the program I learned I was good at construction,” said Joseph, “and I gained work experience.”

When Joseph returned to Houston at 16, he wanted to stay on the right path. He earned his GED, but struggled to find work.

“I tried to get a job, but the doors were just shut,” said Joseph. “I went back to what I knew best and got back into the drug game.”

The game came to a screeching halt when at the age of 18, three men tried to rob Joseph at gun point during a drug deal. He fought back and things escalated, eventually resulting in Joseph being convicted of triple homicide.

Although the death penalty was on the table, the judge sentenced Joseph to three 25-year terms.

Shortly before his sentencing, Joseph became a father. His young daughter, Jasmine, was brought to visit him up until she was four years old, at which time she was placed in foster care due to her mother’s inability to care for her. 

Joseph wouldn’t see her again until she was 21 years of age. His prison mentor helped reestablished contact with Jasmine, and she was happy to have her dad back in her life.

Even after growing up in poverty and previously being involved in the juvenile justice system, nothing prepared Joseph for the brutality of prison.

 “I was raped and beaten,” said Joseph, “and the guards just watched.”

Several years into his sentence, Joseph joined a group called Peer Education, which teaches inmates how to protect themselves. The program became his saving grace, and he stayed involved, teaching and mentoring other inmates until he was released after 24 years and 6 months.

“The last eight years of my incarceration I was able lead peer education classes,” said Joseph, “it felt good to be able to teach guys how to protect themselves.”

After essentially spending his entire adult life behind bars, reintegrating into society was a challenge. When Joseph was driven right past his childhood home and didn’t recognize his former neighborhood, he realized things were never going to be the same.

“It took me a few months to be able to navigate my life again,” said Joseph, “it was very hard.”

While trying to find his way in the free world, Joseph remembered learning about SER’s programs while he was incarcerated and contacted the organization less than a month after being released.

After attending an Information Session, Joseph learned about an upcoming Warehouse/Forklift class, and met with SER navigator, Margarita Flores, with whom he remains in contact.

Joseph completed job readiness and forklift training, earning credentials in NCCER CORE and as a forklift driver.

Upon completion of his class, Joseph attended a SER job fair and got a job right away. Although it wasn’t the job he was hoping for, the SER team encouraged Joseph to keep searching while he gained experience and earned a paycheck. 

“I’ve been through challenges all along the way,” said Joseph, “SER is always there to help.”

At another SER job fair, Joseph obtained a job as a forklift driver for Gulf Winds Warehouse, where he worked for several months.

While at Gulf Winds, Joseph got a call from an old friend – James Prince, who owns several companies, including Raps-A-Lot Records. James asked Joseph to provide bodyguard services to actress/singer Mýa while she was in Houston filming a television series.

While on this assignment, others in the industry took notice of Joseph’s initiative and dedication and offered him other, similar job opportunities. He even had small roles in the television series.

Through word-of-mouth, Joseph’s services have expanded and he currently provides protection services to professional athletes and other celebrities.

Today, Joseph has his own place and provides his mother with an apartment nearby. Now happily reunited with his family, Joseph feels privileged to help take care of his mother, his daughter, and his two granddaughters.

“It has been really good spending time with my daughter, Jasmine,” said Joseph, “and being able to hold my granddaughters is a wonderful blessing.”

Now Joseph is able to fulfill his passion for helping youth, particularly disadvantaged youth, and always keeps his eyes open for opportunities to do so.

 “A lot of my breaks have been God-sent,” says Joseph, “and now I know what my purpose is.”

Joseph volunteers when he can, always endeavoring to help others who can benefit from his life experiences. Joseph spoke candidly about his life and struggles at SER’s most recent Warehouse/Forklift graduation. His heartfelt words were truly inspirational to students and staff.

“If I can speak to someone and help change their life, I’m happy,” said Joseph. “Usually people try to ‘pay it back’, [but] I pay it forward.”

Joseph hopes others will lift themselves up through programs such as those offered by SER.

“I recommend SER all the time because they helped me see what I could do,” said Joseph. “People can change their lives with a little help.”