Robert Yanez, now 20, seized the opportunity to stand out among his peers by making his summer job about more than just a few paychecks.
“After I get my degree I hope to perhaps work in the city full time… And just keep growing. One never stops learning, and you always have to take advantage of opportunity.”
“I am Robert Yanez, and I am 20 years old. I was born and raised here in Houston, but my parents are from Mexico. My dad is from Mexico City, and my mom is from a little small pueblo in Michoacán. She left as a young girl, and she grew up in the Valley. It's a little bit more Tex-Mex there, and I definitely have that influence. I'm bilingual, and I try to visit as much as I can.
[I heard about the City of Houston Summer Jobs program] through my father. He does work for the Health Department, under a different agency. He had told me the year before that he saw the youth that were at his site, and he said ‘hey, what's up with that?’ So he inquired for more information, and when the time came he gave me the application.
I went ahead and applied. [With SER] I was given the opportunity to be a team lead. There were a lot more responsibilities [with that role]. Taking care of the youth's timesheets, making sure there were no dilemmas going on, and that the work was getting done. Also making sure that the youth were having fun. I mean, we know that it is a job, but at the same time we want them to have fun.
I would say one of the primary reasons that I was given an opportunity to be a team lead was that I worked at Denver Harbor, which is a very Hispanic-oriented community. Being bilingual, I think it was a plus. Also, as a little kid, my dad would take me to all the clinics, through the different sites. I knew a lot of the people.
I remember that summer, a lot of my friends were looking for other jobs, maybe to work in retail, fast food, you name it. They wanted to have some money. Go out with friends. But for me it was about more than that. Yes, of course, [the internship with the City] was nice, because there aren’t a lot of internships that pay you. But really what it was about was the experience. It really doesn't compare. It was just great to say that I have an internship that I really value a lot.
This is where I really congratulate SER, because a lot of the youth are starting to realize that ‘wow, if I do this internship now, it's going to help me a lot,’ because personally, I have friends that are in college right now, and they like to brag that they're in the engineering program, they're in this or that, but at the end of the day they're still not doing any internships. And once you get your degree, a lot of these jobs require you to already have experience. So if you have a degree but no experience, that's what causes you not to get the job.
[When I decided to come volunteer and interview candidates for the 2016 City of Houston Summer Jobs program] I was just showing them that if you let your work talk for you, and you take advantage of opportunities, the doors don't close. They'll stay open for you. I made sure to tell them that.
Right now I'm a [part time] peer health leader under the office of Adolescent Health and Injury Prevention. [Getting hired] came as a surprise. I tended to volunteer at events that the city had, so one time they told me, ‘hey, are you currently working?’ And I was at the moment. I was working at a Pier 1 Imports as a sales associate. So they told me to keep in touch, that something was coming up. Before I knew it, about a month later, they presented me with the opportunity. I would say it maybe took about a week, and I was hired.
Essentially what I do is go to the local schools, the parks, the libraries. First of all I get my information from people's word of mouth, and I work with adolescents, ages 12 to 19. I kind of act as a counselor because a lot of times counselors have hundreds of kids under their supervision. So what are the odds that they're gonna sit down with you one on one and tell you "this is what I found out about universities, blah blah blah." So what I do, I help with curricular activities, I help with tutoring, teaching them how to do their resumés. If they have presentations coming up, I help them out with that. I also help them out with health and nutrition and the fitness part. I help them come up with workouts. I think fitness would be one of the main purposes because here at Denver Harbor when you look around and say "hey let's go grab a quick bite," you see taquerias, then you run across and there's a Burger King. I try to just really educate people about healthier options.
I also attend Lone Star College, which is a two year institution, and I should be transferring to the University of Houston in the fall to pursue my degree in business administration. After I get my degree I hope to perhaps work in the city full time because I'm already here as a temp, so why not make that temp to full time employee? And just keep growing. One never stops learning, and you always have to take advantage of opportunity.”