Michele Herrera

Empowered by her past and excited about her future

Article Courtesy WorkQuest

Starting a new job virtually – in the midst of a global pandemic, no less- might not be most people’s preferred way to begin a new chapter in life. Michele Herrera, however, believes that her career path has been nothing short of divine timing.

Through a contract with Goodwill North Central Texas, a Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP) in the Texas State use WorksWonders Program, Herrera started working at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in August of 2020, right in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Although the role is currently a temp position, she’s hoping to one day be permanently employed by TxDOT and is looking forward to meeting her coworkers in person for the first time.

“Goodwill’s intention in placing people in temp jobs is to ensure we can get a good-paying job with benefits – something we can even retire from,” Herrera said. “I’d compare it to rising through military ranks. We have a structured path to achieve and excel.”

“By giving underserved people in Tarrant County and surrounding areas the job training they need to achieve maximum independence, Goodwill is a hand up, not a handout,” David Cox, president and CEO of Goodwill North Central Texas, says.

As a record keeper, Herrera is in charge of maintaining all documents related to the TxDOT construction projects to which she’s assigned. It’s her job to make sure that contractors stay within the allotted budget for each project and to properly document receipts and other materials to back up cost estimates.

“I’m really fast and accurate, probably because I’m such a perfectionist,” Herrera said, laughing. “Someone told me that they saw how hard I worked to get everything right, and that’s the biggest compliment I’ve ever received.”

While she’s been at TxDOT for just 11 months, her journey to get to this job has been far longer. In 2017, Herrera found herself experiencing homelessness and working multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet. While eating at True Worth Place, a homeless resource center, she met a representative of Goodwill North Central Texas and found out about the Goodwill Jobs Program, where she was able to start her path toward employment. Herrera started filling temp positions through Goodwill Staffing Services in 2019 as she patiently waited for a chance at a position with TxDOT. Her supervisor encouraged her to apply once a record-keeping role became available, and Herrera never looked back.

“I absolutely love my job,” Herrera said. “I feel challenged every day and learn more with each task I’m assigned. I have job stability for the first time in a long time, and with that comes new hope. Goodwill Staffing Services – and through it, TxDOT – changed my life!”

For Herrera, the impact of stable employment has extended far beyond increasing her confidence to improving her financial situation as well. She recently closed on her dream house in Fort Worth, a milestone she never imagined she would achieve without what she describes as divine intervention four years ago when she connected with Goodwill at True Worth Place.

“I was at rock bottom, but someone at Goodwill believed in me,” Herrera said. “They didn’t count my past against me and gave me a new lease on life.”