Sophomore Nadia Charles leads Jeneration J, ‘speaks up’ for victims of domestic violence


Photo credit: Nadia Charles

Charles speaks at ‘Raise Your Voice 4 Peace.’ She coordinated with donors and singers to plan the event. Photo courtesy of Charles.

Archer sophomore Nadia Charles first became involved with Jenesse Center when she was eight years old through her mother, who works for the larger organization, and has been volunteering ever since.

But Charles’ role in the last year has shifted. Because of her consistent involvement, Angela Parker, Director of Trainings and Programs, asked Charles if she would be interested in becoming president of Jeneration J, a teen-focused organization that operates under the auspices of Jenessee Center.

“I was like, ‘Of course — I love this organization,'” Charles said. “I saw it as an opportunity to just help my peers and myself know what is safe and what’s not safe.”

According to its website, Jeneration J “provides a comprehensive dating violence intervention and prevention resource”  through educational outreach initiatives aimed at teenagers. As president, Charles controls the organization’s social media account, emcees at fundraisers, gives speeches and networks with potential donors.

“I write a lot of letters; I make a lot of phone calls; I send a lot of direct messages [to potential donors],” Charles said. “I also help host our charities and I come up with ideas…how are we going to raise money? What kind of event should this be?”

The first major event Charles oversaw took place in November and was called Raise Your Voice 4 Peace. The fundraiser was a teen singing competition featuring songs of joy. Charles collaborated with donor Jildy T, a music producer, to recruit celebrity judges and find artists to perform at the event.

“When I interviewed all the singers, they really expressed that they wanted their songs to give people hope and let them know that they’re not alone,” Charles said before the event. “This event will make people realize that through hard times, we’re going to prevail…we just have to keep hoping.”

Charles said that the feeling of gratification at the end of the event made her feel relieved and proud of the work that she put in.

“[The Jenessee Center] put it all in my hands, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. They’re like family to me. So at the end of the night, when everyone said ‘good job’ or called me and said they were very proud of me, that made me cry,” she said. “I felt good about myself. I was like ‘Yeah, I’m 15, working really hard and taking adult matters into my hands.'”

The money raised at the event will go to shelters for victims of domestic abuse and Jenesse Center programming, including Thanksgiving and Christmas events. Charles said that working at such events over the years has helped her gain perspective.

“We had a Christmas event, and…this little boy who I was with…was named Michael, and he was like, ‘Nadia, get out of this suit, come play with me.’ And he was crying because he needed a toy and he didn’t get one, and right when I handed it to him his face lit up, and he was just smiling, and he was like, ‘I’ve never gotten a Christmas present before.’ That made me cry,” she said. “For him to get a toy car, a small Hot Wheel…that means the world to him. [It] just made me realize how privileged I am to go to a school like this and live the life I live.”

Since Raise Your Voice 4 Peace, Charles has participated in other outreach events. In early February, Charles was on a panel at in Sacramento in which she spoke to senators about her work.

It is amazing to watch her dedicate so much of her time to making life better for women and children who are in such desperate need of compassion and hope.”

— Angela Parker, Director of Trainings and Programs for Jenesse Center

“It’s just kids speaking up for kids who don’t have a voice about people who experience domestic violence within their foster homes, within daily life,” she said. “I got to introduce myself to [senators] and talk to them about what I do, why it’s so important for me to speak up…I had to actually sit in front of them and advocate for my cause.”

Charles also attended the Oscars alongside the singers who participated in Raise Your Voice 4 Peace, where she networked with celebrities in hopes of having the organization “blow up.”

“We were really scared and starstruck,” she said. “I was networking and telling [the celebrities] why they should be involved with domestic violence and what their platform means to us and how they should use it so these ideas don’t get swept under the rug.”

Charles is now working with these celebrities to organize panels for youth. Recently, the organization hosted a panel called ‘Black Girls Do Matter’ featuring singer and songwriter Justine Skye.

“People who look like you being unafraid to share what they’ve been through makes you want to come out and share your story too,” she said. “It just creates a very positive environment. You’re able to seek out help without being ashamed or being afraid of telling your story.”

In an email interview, Parker, who initially asked Charles to serve as president, said that she has “blossomed in the role.”

“It has been a pleasure to watch her hone her leadership,” Parker wrote. “It is amazing to watch her dedicate so much of her time to making life better for women and children who are in such desperate need of compassion and hope.”

Charles encouraged other Archer students to get involved in Jeneration J.

“It’s really fun,” Charles said. “Everyone there is treated as family, no matter your race, your color, your gender, what you identify as. We love you for who you are, and…we all have the same common mission, which is to help others.”