A Journey from the Streets to a Role Model

May 21, 2024   |  By Ryan M. Moser

Growing up in sunny San Diego, Anthony T. excelled in every sport he played: soccer, baseball, surfing, track. Raised by a loving single mom, Anthony worked hard at school but eventually ended up following the wrong crowd. But sports had taught him integrity and teamwork, traits that would help him later in his life when he faced adversity after leaving prison.

“I’ve never lied to my kids about the mistakes I made,” Anthony said. “But now I’m proud to say that I work with at-risk community members to help them find jobs. That all started because of the changes I made inside prison and from working with the Center for Employment Opportunities.”

After returning home from incarceration two years ago, Anthony knew that he needed to work towards a career path if he was going to support his family, so he called the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) after a friend recommended the organization.

“I had no real work history, so after my orientation, my job coach polished my resume and helped me find employment right away,” Anthony said. “CEO got me job-ready and gave me work boots, jeans, shirts, vests, and a hard hat. They helped me get on my feet again.”

Anthony was paid daily to work alongside a team, which CEO terms “crew,” beautifying areas around Los Angeles and engaged in various career training opportunities through CEO. After several months working on crew, Anthony took a job as a delivery driver that gave him benefits and overtime and stayed engaged in CEO’s paid retention services.

While working with CEO, Anthony joined CEO’s Advocacy Leadership Committee (ALC), additional training that equipped him with the skills to advocate to change government policies and remove barriers for formerly incarcerated people. He met with a group of thirty members every week for four months, learning how to tell an inspiring story that could change other people’s views on returning citizens and increase support for reentry services.

This year, the advocacy leadership committee will ask California lawmakers to pass policy to improve fair chance hiring by reducing unnecessary background checks. They’ll also ask for sustained investments in direct cash support for people coming home and engaged in employment training.

“I learned how to share my story and how the process of lobbying Congress works,” Anthony said.

“The lawmakers are unaware of our upbringing and it’s important for them to understand our story so they can learn about prison reform and how it can help people.”

After a year with CEO, Anthony is working and acting as a role model, taking care of his four children and wife, and is happier than he’s ever been.

“My own personal journey of redemption started when I chose to love myself and then my family. I had to search inside for something good, and I always knew that I could be a positive role model. Now I’m a family man and help at-risk teens get ready to work. I am so grateful.”

This past year, over 150 participants joined the Advocacy Leadership Committee and are now using their voices and the training CEO has given them to turn their lived experience into purpose and effect meaningful policy change. Learn more about how you can support advocates like Anthony in their advocacy and open the door for others.