Like many youth from Houston’s troubled Sunnyside neighborhood, 44 year-old Terrance Henderson was surrounded by negative influences growing up. Violence, drugs, criminal activity, and poverty were a daily fixture of Terrance’s life.
It was no surprise that Terrance couldn’t avoid the dangerous path that many of his peers fell into. That trail led Terrance to prison, with a lengthy rap sheet to boot. He was just 20 years old.
18 long years went by until Terrance was finally released in 2010. After so much time behind bars, Terrance decided he wanted to turn his life around. But soon enough he would realize that good intentions would only get him so far. Terrance was disappointed to find that his options were limited to minimum wage jobs, largely in the foodservice industry. Terrance began working as a short-order cook at a national breakfast chain, but knew he wanted a career in a skilled trade
It was then when a new path opened up for Terrance.
“I found SER,” says Terrance. “They really helped me out a lot.”
Terrance met with a SER career coach in December 2012, while he was still on probation. In his initial assessment, Terrance demonstrated he was “determined, focused, and committed to achieving his goals.” Terrance completed job readiness, NCCER Core Construction, Warehouse Forklift training, and Welding training while receiving personal and financial support to keep progressing toward his goals.
After training, Terrance participated in SER’s “Job Connections” group every Thursday as part of his job search. SER’s Employment Services team then connected Terrance with Oxford Builders, where he was hired in June 2013 as a Carpenter Helper, earning $12/hr.
“I went into carpentry, and I’m loving doing carpentry at Oxford,” says Terrance. He was finally given the second chance he was looking for. Oxford Builders firmly believes in giving hard workers an opportunity to really make something of themselves through a carpentry career.
“We train our people, like Terrance,” says William Sanchez, President of Oxford Builders. “He’s in our full year training program where we train carpenters. They then get a trade they can keep for the rest of their lives.“
“I’m going to stay [at Oxford], as long as they allow me to stay,” says Terrance, with the confident smile of a man determined to make the most out of his second chance at life. After 18 months, he’s still employed at Oxford.
In 2014, Terrance started working with Rene Hernandez, SER’s Financial Opportunity Center Coordinator, to improve his financial situation. “Terrance is a quiet guy,” says Rene. “But he has goals that he wants to reach: getting out of debt, building his credit, and he really wants to buy a home.”
After learning he had a credit score of zero, Terrance knew it was time to get to work. With Rene’s help, he was approved for a credit card best suited to begin building his credit. And after tracking his budget and spending for several months with help from Rene, Terrance applied for a TWIN Account.
“The way the TWIN Account works, the Credit Builder loan” explains Rene, “[clients] don't get the money upfront. They have to pay $26 every month and that's reported to the credit bureau. Terrance did that every month, except once, where at the beginning of the month his work slowed down, so he was unable to pay that on time. But then he caught up, and he was able to make his payments on time.”
“Terrance completed the 12 months, so got a check for $300 [that Terrance contributed to every month]. And for every time he paid those $26 on time, he got a match. Since he didn't pay on time the second month, he got a check for [an additional] $275. Which is still very good.”
“[The TWIN Account] program is not only about building discipline - it's building savings, and it's also building credit. And it also helps to pay off any kind of debt that Terrance may have. Plus, he continues to build credit with the two credit cards he has now,” says Rene.
Terrance recently opened new checking and savings accounts to begin saving for his house, and he will start the homebuyer education process at Tejano Center for Community Concerns. His credit score is now considered good - a far cry from his old score of zero.
After much hard work and dedication, Terrance can say achieved the goal he set for himself after his 18 years in prison: he has effectively turned his life around.
To learn more about the SER Jobs for Progress Financial Opportunity Center, please contact David Fernandez at 713.773.6000 ext. 146.