Ernie: A Decade-Long Transformation

Ernie Slide

It took Ernie nearly a decade to apply to Hope Builders. Growing up in Santa Ana, he was exposed to gang activity and began to glorify that lifestyle as a young boy. At 13, around the time that his father was released from prison, he started to run with the wrong crowd. At 16, Ernie was kicked out of high school and sent to a continuation school. It was here that he first heard about Hope Builders from a teacher, but it would be many years before he actually applied.

For the next five years, Ernie made a number of bad choices, got caught up with drugs and finally landed in jail. A few weeks before his first daughter was born, Ernie was arrested and, just like his father, sentenced to seven years in prison. While serving his time he missed two important milestones— the birth of his daughter and the death of his mother.

When Ernie was released from prison at 28 years old, he knew he had just one last chance. Ernie just completed Hope Builders’ construction program a few weeks ago. Because of his determination and hard-work, Ernie was hired by Hope Builders Construction Company, the agency’s social enterprise and general contracting company. Hope Builders Construction Company provides up to 12 months of transitional employment to graduates of the construction program. It pays crew members $12/hour and gives them the opportunity to work alongside master craftsmen. Towards the end of their employment, Hope Builders Construction Company works to transition crew members to permanent employment with another company that pays at least $15 per hour.

How is life after Taller San Jose Hope Builders?
“Life is pretty great! I got a job on the crew at Hope Builders Construction Company. It’s been really great to actually use what I was taught in the training program. I go into the field and know what tools are what. I know I’m helpful to my foreman because I don’t panic when he asks for a tool since I know what I’m looking for.”

What have you been doing on your first job site?
“Right now, we are doing demolition on a house in Riverside. It burned down. We’ve been breaking it down, and then we will build it back up. Demolition is tough work. You have to know exactly what to break down in the correct order so that it is quick and easy.”

How is it working with a few of the classmates that you trained with?
“Working with some of my former classmates has made the adjustment into the field more comfortable. We have each other’s backs. If one of us needs a reminder on how to do something, we can help each other.”

How is family life after advancing from Hope Builders’ training program?
“Everyone is just really happy for me. Even friends and family, who I thought would have hard feelings towards me, are really happy for me. They ask about my life and my new job. A lot of people have told me they’re proud of me.”

Do your kids treat you differently?
“Yeah! My daughter always asks, ‘Daddy, why aren’t you going to school anymore?’
I tell her that I go to work now instead. I tell her I went to school so that I can work.”

What are your hopes for the future?
“Once I finish my 12-month position with Hope Builders Construction Company, I want to get a job in carpentry. That’s my favorite part of construction. I just like to build things with my hands.”

Would you recommend Hope Builders to your peers?
“Absolutely. I tell people about Hope Builders whenever they ask me how I’m doing. This place can really help you out. It may seem too good to be true, but they really care about you here. They really want you to succeed.”