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We Are Family Announces New Executive Director

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Ruggerio (Credit: Alice Keeney Photography)

The We Are Family Board of Directors today announced the appointment of Domenico Ruggerio as the next Executive Director, following an extensive national search. Domenico will succeed Nijeeah Richardson, who is stepping down this month for a new role with Southern Vision Alliance and will be based in New Orleans, LA.

“Nijeeah has been a truly transformative leader for the organization, and they will be forever family,” said Jordan Carter, Chair of the Board of Directors. “We are in a strong position for continued growth and are confident that Domenico has both the vision and experience to build upon our 26-year history of community-based service.”

During their tenure, Nijeeah has led the organization through a period of significant growth, increasing the number of LGBTQI+ youth served, programs offered, and staff employed in full-time and part-time capacities. Among their many accomplishments include:

  • Securing a dedicated space for We Are Family and reopening Closet Case Thrift Store at 1801 Reynolds Ave, next door to AFFA and Charleston Pride.

  • Doubling the organization’s operating budget through increased fundraising and grantmaking.

  • Expanding and launching new programs with staff including the Mental Health Assistance Program, the Lowcountry GSA Coalition, and no-cost access to gender-affirming gear.

“It is with this organization that I was able to imagine a better Charleston and a more affirming South for LGBTQI+ youth,” said Executive Director Nijeeah Richardson. “I am forever changed by the relationships I was able to cultivate with We Are Family’s staff, board, youth, and community partners. I am also honored to know its incoming Executive Director, Domenico Ruggerio, as a friend and colleague. With his leadership and commitment to radical social change, We Are Family will grow exponentially and expand its reach ensuring that trans and queer youth in South Carolina are recognized for the vital contributions they bring to their families, schools, and communities.”

Domenico will take over as Executive Director on June 28th and continue to expand the organization’s programming and impact across the state. With significant experience as a social justice educator and facilitator, college administrator, and program manager, he will focus on building and bridging communities, and empowering youth to be change agents in those communities.

“In the past few years alone, We Are Family has modeled – especially for our youth – what can be possible, if queer and BIPOC are offered opportunities to lead,” aid Ruggerio. “It is a privilege to steward the organization towards its next stage of growth and contribute to the legacy of Nijeeah Richardson, Melissa Moore, Warren Redman-Gress, and Tom Myers. I am committed to doing the internal work needed to ensure We Are Family is an anti-racist organization, while strengthening and expanding core programs that cultivate youth leadership development, activism, and civic skills.”

He joins We Are Family from Teach for America – South Carolina, where he most recently served as Director of Education, Advocacy, and Systems Transformation. Previously, he held higher education administrative roles that supported and empowered students of color and LGBTQI+ students and communities at the College of Charleston, Bard College, Vassar College, and Oberlin College.

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