Maria’s Story: The Opportunity of a Lifetime

by | Jan 9, 2020 | Success Stories

Tragedy brought Maria V. to SERJobs, her hard work brought her a new career.

“I mainly lived out of my car, with all my day to day stuff piled in the back seat, the trunk was my closet; I parked anywhere to rest, church parking lots were a favorite spot.”

“When you’re up, you’re in the business of networking,” Maria V. begins. She explains that during the prime of her real-estate career, she was diligent about helping out those around her in any way she could. This is how she ended up campaigning for Annise Parker in 2008. “I was campaigning with Annise Parker and when she won the second time I met Wendy [SERJobs Employment Services Lead] there at an event. We just sat at the same table.”

“She [Wendy] was there with three other CEOs from other companies, so I met them all and we exchanged cards. I always kept their cards and over the years I was thinking that I was keeping their cards as resources for my clients.” As fate would have it, Maria would come to find out that Wendy Ramos’ card would be a valuable resource to her, but not in the way that she initially thought. 

After Maria told us how SER came to be on her radar, she wasted no time diving into the hardships she endured to get here. “I lost two different houses in the process of my marriage disintegrating. When my husband left, I was still trying to sell my houses.” Although her career was built on selling homes, carrying on business as usual proved to be very difficult for Maria. “In real estate, you have to stay strong to stay ahead. When you’re weak in the sense that you can’t focus on your work or remember what you’re doing or reason fast…These things prevent you from really performing and competing and sales are about performing and competing.”

With the distress from her life coming undone wreaking havoc on her productivity, Maria quickly saw here 19 home listings expire. Despite the personal and career trouble, she was enduring, her priority was still her daughter. At that point in time, Maria’ daughter had her sights set on going to college. 

She notes logging on to Facebook one day and seeing her daughter’s post asking for financial help in going to college. That’s when she knew, “I need to do something for my daughter. I can’t just be here in this darkness. We both decided that we needed to go to work.”

Before Maria fell out of her real estate career, she was the one bringing the “big check” home. Needing to move forward without this income was a big adjustment period for Maria and her daughter, “especially because my daughter was used to mom providing,” says Maria. 

No matter, Maria did everything she could think of to move forward. “After that, I just went from tiny job to tiny job. During that depressive chapter of my journey, I mainly lived out of my car, with all my day to day stuff piled in the back seat, the trunk was my closet; I parked anywhere to rest, church parking lots were a favorite spot.”

“I knew something very special awaited me here at SER.” 

Maria’s journey to SER was through a difficult transformation. She accepted a SER business card as a resource for her clients in need, then ended up needing it for herself the most; “…instead of thinking of others, I read it thinking of me.”

The day Maria decided to go to SER for help, she had two items on her agenda: 

  1. Find a local pantry that would give her food. 
  2. Stop by SER. 

The first item on her list ended up compounding her need for our services. “The food pantries I had visited had a long process I needed to follow, which resulted in no food.” Feeling defeated, she still marched on, “When I finally made my way through the SER door on October 20,2019, right before 5pm, I will never forget how desperate I felt with my hands still empty.” 

Coming off the failure of her food mission, Maria was surprised to be greeted by a completely different atmosphere at SER. “I can’t tell you what my face looked like, but in that exact moment of death by frustration, being greeted by Manny’s [SER Program Coordinator] big smile and kind eyes made all the difference in the world.”

They immediately began to discuss why Maria came and what steps SER could take to give her the help she needed. “He was superb in understanding the depth of my hunger. It wasn’t just for food! I asked him questions about SER and then heard all about the SER programs from Jose [SER Construction Training Instructor].”

Gone was the defeat and failure. After discussing her options that afternoon, Maria “felt so embraced and rejigged, afterward. I knew something very special awaited me, here at SER.”

When discussing training options, our Customer Service and Digital Literacy class showed promise. “The next available training at the time was for Digital Literacy and Customer Care, yes, I am a veteran of Digital Literacy and Customer Care; yet, I am also 50 year old Veteran who can still learn new tricks.” Hesitant that she wouldn’t have much to gain from the course and skeptical that it was being offered at no-charge, Maria had to decide whether this new opportunity was as good as it seemed on the outside.

Ultimately, she decided to give it a go. “So I got the link for SER and registered for the class. Veronica [SER Enrollment Specialist] called me the next day and all systems were “GO!”, and although my schedule was tight, my money was tight, and my head was tight, this door at SER was open.”

From then on, she proved to be a diligent student and a hard worker. Maria had sought help many times before. When asked what stuck about SER, she had this to say: 

“I reiterate to you: this entire team is nothing but love, support, and action. They go to bat for us, and hit those home runs clear out of the park.”

Before graduating from SER’s training, Maria was hired to work for NRG. She was clear that while we have documented her story, that was only the first part. Maria is utilizing SER’s other programs, like our Financial Opportunity Center, to map out “the second part of this story.” 

She is currently adjusting to her new job at NRG and was approved for a Paralegal training grant through WorkForce Solutions. Maria also discussed her background studying engineering and expressed interest in diving into the energy sector in the future. 

When addressing her graduating class at SER, she left the room with one final thought, “When people get their hearts together and heads together to create community resources, like SER is doing, our efforts become breakthroughs and we all benefit from the long term accomplishments.”