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Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez, a hard-working 22-year old student, applied to countless jobs on his own after receiving his work permit through DACA, but struggled to land interviews. Thinking his lack of experience was the problem, Jonathan jumped at the opportunity to participate in a paid summer internship through SER’s Summer Earn And Learn (SEAL) program.

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“I thought because I didn’t have enough experience was the reason why I [haven’t found a job yet],” said Jonathan. “My resume was blank…I didn’t have any skills to put down. I probably did have the skills back then, but I did not discover them until I came to SER. I thought the [companies] I was applying for weren’t interested in [hiring] me because of my resume, [therefore] I wasn’t getting any calls for [interviews].”

Jonathan was the ideal candidate for the Summer Earn & Learn program, a collaborative effort between DARS, SER, and Workforce Solutions, to help youth with disabilities gain paid work experience.  

“The counselor at DARS told me about the opportunity...I liked it and was really interested,” said Jonathan. “Next thing I know, the DARS counselor tells me that I have an interview with [one of SER’s career coaches]. I met with them and they told me everything about the program...A week later, I got a call from SER saying a position opened and it will be at SER. I said yes…I didn’t think twice. I started the following Monday."

As a part of his daily routine, Jonathan assisted SER’s training department with various administrative duties and special projects. Whenever he could spare some time, Jonathan enjoyed the opportunity to support the other departments with their tasks and interacting with the staff and clients throughout the day.

“I really like SER,” said Jonathan. “Every day I came in, I was greeted with a smile and a wave. Everyone is so close to each other…like family. In these past 10 weeks, I feel like I’ve known them for forever. Everyone is so friendly.”

“This program really inspired me. Everyone at SER works hard. They are dedicated and responsible. You can really tell that the [employees] at SER wants what’s best for the clients and the company. It really inspired me to work hard and to be comfortable with myself. If it wasn’t for SER, I’d probably be taking [more] summer courses... I have done a lot of stuff at SER that I didn’t think I could do.”

Jonathan and his parents came to the U.S. legally for a short family visit in 2003. But when Jonathan became extremely sick and was hospitalized, plans changed. Doctors advised long-term treatment to address his health issues, so Jonathan's parents made the difficult decision to leave behind their life in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico and start over in Houston in order to get the treatment their son needed.

Jonathan is now happy, healthy, independent, and working hard to reach his ultimate goals, thanks in part to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

"I was brought to the U.S. for a reason and it changed my life completely," said Jonathan. "DACA has impacted my life, and I hope its not over yet. I hope there is something better than that. I am part of those 800,000 DACA students who have a big future here and are here to stay."

In the near future, Jonathan plans to obtain a degree in Information Technology and gain employment within the IT field.

"Thank you for the opportunity, for everything you done for me," said Jonathan. "It was a pleasure working with you guys... you made me a better person and I can't thank you enough."

The experience he gained and the self-discovery process he went through in the SEAL program helped Jonathan shift his perspective and see beyond his personal doubts.

“Every day is a new opportunity to start over…to be successful,” said Jonathan. “Every day is a new opportunity to get up and be someone.”