As Mentor Coordinator of Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow, Anthony Gilyard helps facilitate guidance for anyone who finds himself or herself stuck in a rut during an employment search.
With a real life experience that included incarceration for several years, the 42-year-old Gilyard, a native of Arkansas who moved to Las Vegas when he was five, has an invaluable story for those struggling with personal issues.
Every Friday morning at the Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow (FIT), Gilyard leads a mentoring class that includes a guest mentor speaker. This Friday’s guest speaker at 9:30 a.m. will be former Clark County Commission Chairman Dario Herrera, who served time in prison for crimes committed when he was a politician.
“Our speakers help us overcome adversity because like the rest of us, that person has seen challenges sometime during their life,” explained Gilyard. “Anyone who has struggled is welcome here to find a new direction. In addition, we are here for volunteers so they can share how they overcome.”
After sustaining a career-ending football injury at Dixie College in 1995, Gilyard joined the U.S. Marines Corps. Continuing to pursue his college degree was paramount. While incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison in Northern California in 2009, he earned his Substance Abuse Counseling certification and his associates degree in liberal arts.
After being released from prison, Gilyard quickly enrolled in the University of Phoenix and completed his degree in human services while working at FIT in 2014.
“I really feel as though we are making a difference,” said Gilyard. “Too many people put themselves in prison within their own minds. We’re all supposed to be flawless during our life and that’s simply unrealistic.
“As we have all heard so many times, ‘Bad things happen to good people.’”
In particular, Gilyard has respect for FIT Program Director Jennifer Casey, who helped him see his own potential when he was her client in 2011.
“I had a real-life experience and I also achieved my college degree in human service,” he said. “Jennifer guided me and created the re-entry program. She recognized that I could help others especially considering my background.
“Jennifer said I had the passion to work for FIT and help others. I will always remember the help I received because of her. She job-searched with me for several months and we discovered that my background prevented me from getting some jobs. The non-profit aspect was perfect for me to use my degree as intended.”
During the past four years, Gilyard has seen countless people benefit from not only the gatherings on Friday, but also the various classes offered at FIT.
“We also have another session called ‘Focus on the Future’ where we talk about many issues ranging from job retention to family issues and financial management,” Gilyard said. “The attendees appreciate what we’re offering.”
“After a minimum of six months of mentoring, the sessions definitely increase job retention, community involvement and subsequently reduces the recidivation for those who have been incarcerated,” Gilyard said.
Among the most recent speakers was national speaker Bonita Fahy, the literary services supervisor for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. Like so many other speakers, she has also been incarcerated and wrote the book entitled “Guilty: The Inside Truth.”
“I think it’s a very good program,” said Fahy, who has a Masters Degree in Organizational Management and Leadership and a Bachelors degree in human services from Springfield College, in Springfield, Mo.
“The more times we place a positive role model in front of the participants who have been their shoes, the more they can believe that success and the American Dream is possible for all of us.”
FIT is a non-profit agency that provides job training, coaching, and support based on job seekers’ individual needs and the skills employers tell us they are looking for. FIT graduates get jobs, and employers get excellent results.
FIT is always looking for mentors to share their stories and help guide out clients.
Situated at 1931 Stella Lake Street near Martin Luther King Drive and Lake Mead Drive in the northwest valley, FIT will celebrate its 20th anniversary Aug. 27, 2017.
Further information can be found by calling 702-367-4348 or by visiting www.lasvegasfit.org.
Anthony Gilyard, Mentor Coordinator, Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow (FIT), 702-367-4348, Ext. 249; Mike Henle, The Idea Company Public Relations, 702-279-3483.