Employee Stories - Julises Cerda

When Julises Cerda was very young, he probably would have laughed if you’d told him he’d be working and raising a family in the middle of Iowa. Des Moines might as well have been Mars to the first generation Mexican child who lived with his family of seven in one of the bedrooms of a southern California two-bedroom apartment. It wasn’t until his father was offered a job in Iowa that Julises realized the change in landscape was a very real possibility.

 “My dad got a job offer at Colonial Bakery. I remember he was going to make $11.75 an hour, which was a very big deal to us,” Julises said. “Up until then, he’d only been making $4.25 an hour. When he told me I’d have a place to stay with him in Des Moines, I took him up on the offer.”

As a restless teenager, Julises wasn’t sure what to make of Iowa. He’d get bored and return to California, only to reconsider and go back to Iowa all over again. Julises volleyed between the two states until he became a father. After years of uncertainty, he knew Iowa was the place he wanted to call home permanently.

“My wife and I decided we wanted and needed stability in our lives,” he said. “Our eyes had been opened to the beauty of Iowa. We knew it was where we wanted to raise our children. This state had the culture, ethics, and morals that mattered to us. Now we consider ourselves Iowans through and through.”

14 years and five children later, Julises hasn’t regretted that decision one bit. His almost three years of employment with Prairie Meadows has a great deal to do with why he feels like he’s home for good. He’d been a painter for Local 246 for several years, which meant long hours and varied job sites. From one day to the next he never knew when he’d be home or where he’d have to travel.

“The uncertainty was tough,” Julises said. “When my kids got a little bit older, I realized how much they needed me and my wife to be there for them. You never get that time back. That’s when I applied at Prairie Meadows. It changed all our lives for the better.”

Julises is especially elated that his schedule — 6am – 2pm — allows him to pick his kids up from school and ferry them to swim practice at the Wellmark YMCA, where he’s also a coach. He admits that the work-life balance Prairie Meadows offers is a benefit he’s never had.

“Prairie Meadows empowers its employees. They want us to be productive members of society,” Julises said. “I’ve had jobs that were so draining, like they were trying to squeeze every ounce of energy out of me. I’ve had situations where I felt like a machine, not a human being or a dad or a husband. But Prairie Meadows recognizes that I have a life and that my family is important to me. I feel really blessed to be here.”

Julises also loves that no two days are the same. One day he might be texturing a ceiling, the next day he might be hanging graphics. The variety in his work keeps him engaged and constantly learning.


“I think of myself as a pretty accomplished painter. I was in school for four years to hone my skills,” he said. “I’ve worked on some pretty big jobs. But even though I have a lot of experience, I still learn something new every day here. It’s never, ever boring. Prairie Meadows is such a unique place.”

His depth of experience and positive attitude has not gone unnoticed by his supervisor and co-workers.

“Julises is so upbeat. If he’s having a bad day, you’d never know it,” said Facilities Supervisor Jeff Albrecht. “And because he’s so knowledgeable about his craft, he’s not afraid to offer fresh suggestions when we run into roadblocks on projects. That said, he’s also receptive and accommodating if we end up going in a different direction from the one he initially proposed. Julises is simply a great team player.”

Julises also loves and admires the fact that the organization supports and encourages people of different cultures to converse in the language they’re most comfortable with. 

“It’s so smart of Prairie Meadows to understand how important effective communication is,” Julises said. “At a lot of places, it’s frowned upon if employees speak any language other than English. But not here. It’s OK to be who you are, and that’s really cool.”

Julises enjoys his co-workers, as well. He believes that the positive, understanding atmosphere and good wages and benefits allow employees to take pride in where they are.

“I feel safe here,” he said. “You spend a good deal of your time at work, so it’s great if you’re going to a place that values you and you value them. That’s Prairie Meadows for me. I’m so lucky.”

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