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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...

Justin Woods

Justin Woods overcame incredible odds to turn his life around.

Born and raised in a “real hard part of 3rd Ward”, Justin’s parents separated when he was five years old. Justin, along with his brother and sister, stayed with their mother. Their father, although supportive of his children, was kept from them for several years.

Justin’s mother realized the only way her children could overcome their circumstances was through education, and she imparted that principle to her children. Justin wanted to graduate high school and then attend barber college.

“Doing well in school was important to our mom,” said Justin, age 31.

Still, Justin’s mom was prone to getting into trouble. When Justin was eight, his mom went to prison for four years.

At that time, he went to live with his father and the two became close over the years his mom was away.

The closeness, however, did not keep Justin from making bad decisions.

In addition to his mom being arrested and sent to prison, many other relatives ran the streets and were often incarcerated. Justin emulated this lifestyle.

At age fourteen, Justin was arrested on a drug charge and was sent to Youth Village, a juvenile facility, for a year.

By the time of his release, Justin’s mom had also been released. He returned to live with her and re-enrolled in school. Despite his desire to obtain a high school diploma, a life of crime and making money the easy way were too hard to resist. Justin dropped out of school when he was sixteen, intending to return at some point.

At age nineteen, Justin was arrested again and convicted of robbery. He was sentenced to four years in the Texas Department of Corrections.

During this incarceration, Justin began to make plans for his life. His early desire to attend barber college was still there. He had been cutting hair since his was 12, and he was really good at it.

Upon his release, he was able to get into Modern Barber College with the help of DARS (Department for Rehabilitative Services), and work toward his certification as a barber.

But a life of crime continued to beckon. He caught a drug case at age 20 and was sent to state jail for seven months.

After this release, Justin was able to complete his classes at barber college, but since he hadn’t obtained his diploma or GED, he wasn’t able to get his license.

Justin’s mom was arrested again, and this time, Justin was devastated.

“My mom’s second arrest took a toll on me,” said Justin, “I ran the streets and went wild.”

There were more arrests and convictions for Justin – five felonies and 15 misdemeanors in all. But it was during his final stint in prison for a gun charge in 2014 that Justin knew it was going to be the last time.

During his final incarceration, Justin’s dad passed away. This was turning point in his life.

“My dad’s death really hit me hard,” said Justin, “he was always there for me.”

Justin made a commitment to turn his life around and become the man that would make his father proud.

The day that Justin walked out of prison for the last time, he was handed a flyer by an individual standing outside the jail. He never got her name, but refers to her as “my angel”.

The flyer was for SER.

Hurricane Harvey hit a few days later, and Justin struggled to keep a roof over his head and food to eat, ending up at a shelter.

Justin eventually called the number on the SERa flyer but the Warehouse/Forklift class advertised had ended. However, SER had other trainings available, and Justin soon enrolled in job readiness training for SER’s Serving for Success, a collaborative culinary program with the Houston Food Bank.

Getting to class proved challenging. Although FEMA helped Justin with housing in a local hotel, transportation was a problem. The only bus route to get to class took several bus changes and lasted two hours each way, requiring Justin to start his day at 4 am.

Undeterred, Justin never missed a class. It helped that his SER career coach, Rene Hernandez, motivated him throughout the course.

“Rene was the one who encouraged me to stay with it,” said Justin, “I believe God put [Rene] in my life.”

Although Justin wasn’t chosen for employment at the Houston Food Bank, he continued to work with SER’s employment services team. Justin knew finding a job was critical to his future.

Monica Martinez, a job developer with SER, worked alongside Justin to find employment that would give him an opportunity for a successful future.

SER put Justin in touch with Steve Kelly, President of Houston Shoe Hospital. Steve knew about Justin’s struggles and believes in second chances. He was willing to give Justin a part-time position. Once Justin proved himself, the job would become full-time.

“I went through a lot to get here,” said Justin, “I came a long way.”

Within two months Justin had shown his transformation and willingness for hard work.

Now, Justin's position is full time and he is thrilled with his job and the opportunities he has been given.

“For now, I’m focused on working hard and accomplishing my goals,” said Justin.

Justin still plans to obtain his barber’s license in the future, but, for now, he’s happy with where he is.

“I’m staying put at the Houston Shoe Hospital for the foreseeable future,” says Justin, “I’ll never turn my back on Steve Kelly, the Houston Shoe Hospital, or SER.”

With his sheer strength of will and SER’s help, Justin now has a good job, a nice apartment, and a future that he looks forward to.

“I am a real success story,” said Justin, “and I’m grateful for the chances I’ve been given.”