Ernie Correa is always up for a challenge. His desire to help led him to experience a variety of programs at BakerRipley during his journey from volunteer to a full-time employee.
It all started after Hurricane Harvey when Ernie and his friends lined up outside the BakerRipley NRG Center shelter to help with disaster recovery efforts.
Once inside, they were quickly given an assignment and for the next four days, they worked in the women and children’s section at the shelter. It was a humbling experience that left Ernie wanting to do more.
Volunteering with BakerRipley
Compelled to keep helping after the shelter closed, Ernie got involved with the Citizenship and Immigration program shortly after.
“My parents came here undocumented and didn’t have the resources to get help, so I know what it’s like,” said Ernie, Citizenship and Immigration Service Specialist.
After completing his volunteer training in late 2017, he volunteered at nearly every single Citizenship Forum for the next two years. Ernie became an expert in the naturalization process and the team relied on him for very important work at the forums.
“Working at these forums showed me how important it was for me to help and the need for these types of services in the community,” said Ernie.
As a result of his work, Ernie received the top volunteer award from the immigration program in 2018.
“I didn’t even know the award existed and it felt great that day, but I don’t do it for the recognition,” added Ernie.
Working with kids
In 2019, Ernie was working in the fraud department at a local bank, but after a restructure he was laid-off. He considered getting another job in banking but his goal was to join BakerRipley full-time to do something more meaningful.
Then, coincidentally, he learned about a part-time position with the BakerRipley Youth Program. He decided to apply and worked with a group of kids that whole summer.
“It’s amazing to work with these kids, eight and nine-year-olds. With kids you have to learn how to improvise in real-time, never a dull moment,” exclaimed Ernie.
After the summer program ended, Ernie was convinced he wanted to a long-term position. Like it was meant to be, in the fall of 2019 a position opened up in the immigration team and he jumped on it.
Joining full time
Today, Ernie is working full-time as an Immigration Services Specialist, he’s mainly responsible for the Immigration Hotline and supporting clients and citizenship activities in the Gulfton campus.
“Coming from a job where everything is repetitive and robotic, it was challenging at first. Our line of work here can change daily with the administration. As that changes our job changes and we have to come out with a new to plan to help our community,” said Ernie.
Meeting families in situations like the ones his parents faced motivates Ernie to help as many people as possible.
“It hasn’t been easy to tell these customers what’s going on. We just tell them we’re here to support you,” added Ernie.
Even after almost a year of joining full-time, Ernie continues to learn every day.
“This job has taught me to be more appreciative of what my parents did to come here. I didn’t know how tough it was, it just gets me sometimes when I’m talking to our neighbors,” explained Ernie.
Volunteers and donations make it all possible
Finally, Ernie knows we can’t do this work alone and he’s constantly reminding his friends and family to get involved. That’s what makes all the difference.
“One of the reasons we can be successful is due to the help of volunteers and donations, without that we couldn’t help the number of neighbors we do.” said Ernie.