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

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Esther Kentish

The beginning of Esther’s life was full of struggle. But in 2013, the resilient teenager landed a prized summer internship through SER-Jobs for Progress and a new world opened for her. Now at age 22, Esther is a published author, soon-to be-college graduate, and has built a vibrant and purposeful life. 
 
At an early age Esther assumed the role of caretaker while living with her single mother, often through periods of homelessness. At the age of eight, Esther took part in her mother’s burial and at 15, had to protect herself from emotional and domestic abuse. On top of these early trials, Esther was raised by a 70-year-old aunt in an area of Houston where poverty, crime, and negative influences saturate the community. But Esther refused to use these circumstances as excuses, worked hard, found solace in poetry, and decided to write a new page in her family history. In high school Esther applied for 69 scholarships and was awarded $40,000 to attend the University of Texas at Arlington.
 
In 2013, as a student at KIPP Academy, Esther found a mentor in Janae Laden, who told her about the Bank of America Summer Internship Program through SER-Jobs for Progress. Esther had no real work experience and needed to use the summer wisely to earn and save money for college. Among the hundreds of applicants that year, Esther was selected and placed at the Houston Ballet, where she was not only able to gain experience in a creative environment, but also had the opportunity to meet the first African American Prima Ballerina, Lauren Anderson, which inspired her.
 
Esther’s strong work ethic, leadership skills, and personality made her stand out above the crowd, so when she applied to participate in SER’s Summer Jobs Program again in 2014, she was a natural choice for a lead intern position. 
 
“I got the chance to work in the office of SER Houston behind the scenes to see how the staff systematically worked together for the greater good of the community,” explains Esther. “Both experiences [at the Ballet and SER] enhanced my sense of professionalism and excitement for my community.”
 
Esther saved the majority of her wages from both internships and utilized the funds for college to pay for expenses her scholarships and financial aid didn’t cover. She also drew on her internship experience when applying for on-campus jobs and leadership positions in student organizations. She recalls when she was 19 and interning at SER, she was invited to speak to the board of directors about her life. This opportunity made a huge impact on her – knowing she was believed in maximized her skills in college. “I became president of several organizations…a Merit Scholar…just by learning that my story was valued…a seed that was planted while I was at SER,” she shares. 
 
Esther recently published her first book, The Emotional Healing Behind WORDS and is CEO and founder of the nonprofit, Christian ministry The Covenant Walk, which helps people heal through poetry. She is slated to graduate from the University of Texas at Arlington in May with a B.A. in English and is planning to pursue an M.A. in English and Nuerophyschology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
 
“This internship program helped me move forward,” says Esther. “Ultimately, I gained much more than…words could possibly express.” 
 
Learn how you can make a difference in the life of a youth by serving as a volunteer for SER’s Summer Jobs Program. 
 
Learn more about Esther’s work at www.estherkentish.com