Monday, December 19, 2011

This Week's Spotlight~ Jennifer Gillyard "Write the Vision, Make it Plain".

To know Jennifer is to love her for her sense of humor, loyalty, resourcefulness, and determination. Jennifer epitomizes service and leadership. Her character is in line with BOND Inc's mission to uplift, motivate, and empower women of color to reach their highest potential. Moreover, Jennifer does not stop there, she works with young and senior women of color and often surrounds herself with women from different ethnic backgrounds and aims to understand how to motivate and lead a woman into a great destiny, but within one’s cultural and systemic context.

Charitable Acts That Benefit Others and Its Impact

·         Jennifer used to be employed as a life skills coach to youth aging out of the foster care system. Even after pursuing another opportunity, Jennifer continues to offer life skills to youth in foster care and youth in general in areas such as employment, education, self-esteem, communication, housing, conflict management, etc.
·         Jennifer loves to volunteer especially around issues of education, child well-being and social justice. She annually volunteers as a volunteer team leader with the Annual Legislative Conference hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. She volunteers with the National Council of Negro Women for their annual events; she also has planned and hosted the Children’s Pavilion at the 2010 Black Family Reunion in DC.
·         Jennifer enjoys working with the youth ministry called IMPACT at Hunter Memorial AME Church. As a team member, Jennifer assists with administrative tasks, bible study, and will be assisting with the tutoring and mentoring ministries in Spring 2012. Jennifer has a passion for youth and training them to understand the social problems of their day and how they can make a difference in their communities, which is why she recruits youth to participate in events such as the Annual Legislative Conference.
·         Jennifer in her spare time looks for ways to become an advocate, for example here is an article from her work with what was once Global Action for Children and now the Global Aids Alliance: 
·         When she is able, Jennifer also enjoys volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and working with a family and youth in the foster care system as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the City of Alexandria. 

In addition to working and going to school full-time, Jennifer continues to serve as a resource to those around her.
·         As a social worker, Jennifer aims to improve how her agency works with the community as well as how social workers provide customer service to clients through forms of quality assurance.
·         Jennifer currently assists and acts as a resource to her church and other charitable organizations and businesses in writing manuals and finding opportunities to serve their respective communities. Jennifer is also working with her church to offer more social services to the Suitland, MD community.

Her Greatest Accomplishment to Date Has Been:

Jennifer’s greatest accomplishment to date has been starting and seeing a project through to its completion. Many times, we have ideas and we even write those ideas down into a plan, but so often the vicissitudes of life hinder us from following through with the plan. We write the vision, and it is clear, but what happens to the execution? A few years ago, Jennifer believed God laid on her heart to publish a poetry book, but design it as a journal to encourage people to write their thoughts, business plans, etc down on paper. It is through this accomplishment that Jennifer has poured out some of herself for others to experience a pouring out of their own dreams.   

The Most Challenging Thing She Has Ever Experienced:

Jennifer’s most challenging thing in life is actually an ongoing struggle of balancing the well-being of one’s family with your own. It was at the age of sixteen, in her junior year at Central High School in Philadelphia, PA, when Jennifer was told that her immediate family members were near death in their health. Her mother, a juvenile diabetic, continued to have seizure after seizure and the doctor gave her a few additional years. Her father, the provider and stability of the family, had to undergo a surgery that required metal rods in his back, but doctors were concerned that with the amount of cigarette smoke in his lungs they would not be able to maintain him on oxygen for 15+ hours of surgery. Her siblings both began experiencing problems with their blood flow, one after contracting HIV. With all of her family members experiencing complications, the family moved in with Jennifer’s paternal grandmother, who had just undergone intestinal surgery. Jennifer was already parentified from assisting her father in caring for her mother, but now she became an emotional and physical support for her family while managing a class load of AP classes and the fear of losing her family to illness. Little did Jennifer know that in a few years she would also battle an illness of her own- Graves Disease, a form of Hyper Thyroid Disease. 

Today, Jennifer continues to manage her illness as well as provide support to her parents and siblings who are thankfully still living and coping with their respective health conditions. Caring for the health demands of family members is not an easy task especially from three hours away. Illness can be taxing on one’s mental stability, finances, and physical health. When you love your family with a love that suffers long, it is challenging to see even one decline in health as you experience inclines in your life. What do you do? Jennifer would think of her father’s voice that always says- “If anything ever happens to us, your job is to continue to excel.”

Her Most Valuable Lessons: 

Jennifer believes we as African American woman often miss one-step while being too busy and that is to practice self-care. She is also a victim of the “on-the-go” spirit! For Jennifer, the following 3 points summarize some of what she would term her most valuable lessons in life.
  • Stop Rushing Your Life Process
It is interesting that a synonym of rushing is charge; rushing places a charge, or cost on our health and spirit. Ladies, pause and breathe. When we rush life, we also rush the people and places that have the purpose of developing us into the best person we can be. We often rush in fear of missing something, when in reality what God has for you is yours as long as you remain healthy enough to persevere towards it. When life has its moments where you feel stagnant, do not rush through that stage, instead ask yourself “what can I do in my meantime.”

  • You are Not God, but with God your load can be manageable
African American women usually do not carry only themselves, but their families, friends, communities, etc. It is almost as if there was a sign on our backs that said “back available to carry burdens.” We must remind ourselves that some things are meant to be carried for a season and then released, whether that means friends, relationships, etc. A load is meant to be balanced and manageable, so when you feel yourself becoming unbalanced with the weight of the world on your shoulders- start releasing some things (better said than done, but it is doable with the support of our sister-friends).  

  • Practice being who you choose to become
Most things in life from the trees that are planted to the laws that govern our country are the result of three things, 1) a dream, 2) a plan, and 3) the execution of a plan. It is imperative, especially as African American women that we practice dreaming and practice writing down the dream and then practice implementing the dream because we will not always be successful in our first attempts. Failure is the defeat we need to experience in order to realize a greater plan. So let us teach our children to dream, plan and execute until the dream is fulfilled.

Final Remarks:  Jennifer has a life lesson on the back of her book that states, “A dream is comprised of ideas and aspirations that become a way of thinking, which translates into a way of behaving. The only way for a dream to be fulfilled is when it is written down then reinforced through action steps. When you wrestle with a dream, you become resilient in the effort to see it come to fruition, thus you allow your ideas to be tested for durability. When a dream reaches the stage of fulfillment then an individual has reached a developmental stage of realizing who they are and what they choose to become….Who is it that you choose to becomeWrite it down then live it!”

Jennifer’s book “From Dreams, through Wrestling, to Fulfillment” can be found on her website:

BOND Inc Spotlight features ordinary African American women from all over who are doing extra-ordinary things.  If you or anyone you know would like to be featured, send a request for more information to

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