Fernando Cardenas likens his role as a National CORE construction superintendent to that of an orchestra conductor – collaborating with dozens of people to create something magical for many communities. While he’s now found his calling, Fernando’s incredible journey began with unprecedented challenges.

Fernando’s path to his current career started during the 2007-08 financial crisis. Despite earning his contractor’s license in 2006, he was laid off and faced an uncertain future. He and his wife spent months trying to make ends meet, eventually being forced to abandon their Eastvale apartment.

“We knew we couldn’t sustain our living situation in Eastvale,” Fernando said. “It was bad; we felt like we just couldn’t make anything work and kept stumbling. Each month, it was a struggle just to pay the rent.”

Fortunately, he quickly found refuge at San Antonio Vista, a National CORE affordable housing community in Montclair. Living in the community was a blessing, with his stepson and other children enjoying Hope through Housing’s after-school program.

For the next seven years, Fernando remained self-employed in construction, doing small-scale home improvements. During this time, he noticed how the team at San Antonio Vista always seemed cheerful and upbeat about their jobs.

“I would occasionally talk to the team at San Antonio Vista, and they all liked working at National CORE,” he said.

In February 2014, seeking more stability, he asked Arlene Ortiz, the property manager at the time, if National CORE was hiring. Arlene, now a regional property manager, gave him his first position at National CORE as a maintenance technician, launching his career.

“Fernando has never been one to walk away from a challenge. Instead, he would always raise his hand to help,” Arlene said. “Fernando is a great leader and an even better example of the possibilities at National CORE.”

Fernando said his successes at National CORE are available to anyone willing to work hard and learn, highlighting the positive work environment as key to building career opportunities.

“There’s plenty of room to get promoted. I saw it and it happened to me! I’m living proof,” he said.

Over the next 10 years, Fernando steadily advanced his career. He became a maintenance technician supervisor a year after he was hired and moved up to assistant superintendent of construction in 2019.

In 2022, Fernando was promoted to construction superintendent, leading a team of about 120 workers to create Vista de La Sierra in Riverside, an eight-building development with 80 apartments for families, a pool, and a community center.

“Fernando’s journey from resident to maintenance technician, to assistant superintendent and now superintendent is a great example of what is possible here at National CORE if you work hard and have a great attitude!” said Chris Killian, senior vice president of construction. “Perhaps the best part of this story is that I believe he has not reached his full potential; I am truly excited to see what the future holds for him.”

On May 30, Fernando was among more than 100 guests present for Vista de La Sierra’s grand opening – a monument to his hard work, dedication, and career aspirations.

“The other day, I was walking around Vista de La Sierra as we were tying up loose ends and it just made me remember what was here before. Now that it’s complete, it made me think that it will be here for a long, long time,” Fernando said. “I’ve talked about it with my wife, my kids, and my mother. It makes me proud.”

Never one to rest on his laurels, Fernando is already preparing for his next assignment: a 48-apartment community in Beaumont.

“It’s awesome to look back and see where I started at National CORE,” Fernando said. “It started as a job and now I have a career.”