Nijeeah Richardson by Shana Swain
When Nijeeah Richardson agreed to host workshops and support sessions at We Are Family- Charleston, it didn’t immediately come to mind she would be hired as their Director of Support Programs and Case Management. A recent graduate of Winthrop University, she completed their Masters Program in Social Work and headed back to her hometown of Charleston to use her education and skill set working with children as a behavioral interventionist. While facilitating the social needs of youth with Justice Works Behavioral Care, she began to take on serious roles in a volunteer capacity with We Are Family.
This non-profit organization advocates for the rights and inclusion of the LGBTQI youth community. The mission of the group is to provide “direct support, leadership development opportunities, and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and straight ally youth up to the age of 25.”
Nijeeah is settling into her new role at WAF while balancing it with her position at Justice Works. This young person has shown to have what it takes to aid in so many ways to the needs of a demographic in Charleston which often goes overlooked. As the organization’s social worker, she manages three support groups: SafeSpace for youth under 18; QueerSpace for young adults aged 18-25; and QTPOC for people of color of all age groups. These groups encourage environments free of judgment and platforms for youth to speak about their lives. When asked about her immediate short-term goals with WAF, Nijeeah replied, “I want to create the groups in the space they imagine.” She stressed that people who make up the group should have a say in its operation.
The long-term goals are already in full swing as WAF and Nijeeah are busy tackling youth homelessness by implementing a host home program. They have envisioned ways to help with raising money and providing employment by opening a thrift store. Naturally, as the organization and their needs have grown, it has become of paramount importance to have a drop-in center to house all the social programs and support groups in one physical location.
When asked what the hardest part of the job was so far? “There is so much to do, and such a great need for services.” Nijeeah explains the climate during this time proves easier than days gone, but there is still much room for progress.
The easiest part? Nijeeah loves working with the youth. This demographic has provided her with many lessons, and it is the most rewarding aspect of her career. “In many ways, they’re my greatest teachers.”
We ended with words beautifully put by Nijeeah Richardson: “We Are Family really expands the definition of family. It’s a community of people actively choosing to love and support each other however we can.”
Volunteer opportunities can be found on their Facebook page, We Are Family-Charleston
Contact Nijeeah Richardson at NIJEEAHR@WAF.org or 843-790-4564