Rahson Johnson goes above and beyond to positively impact youth and his community, utilizing his lived experience and his compassionate heart to inspire and support hundreds of youth and adults.
At the age of 16, Rahson was sentenced to serve 23-60 years in prison, leaving his neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn for the remainder of his teen and early adult years, only to return just months before his 40th birthday. While incarcerated, books became Rahson’s family. He not only completed his high school coursework, but went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science and a Master of Professional Studies in urban ministry. He also took advantage of opportunities to begin working with young people facing issues similar to the ones he experienced. While incarcerated, Rahson became a Youth Counselor with the Youth Assistance Program, an intervention program that brings kids to prisons, where he coached and educated young people on gang violence prevention, harm reduction, and sex education. While fulfilling, Rahson felt limited by his ability to only meet with these young people for a single 2-3 hour visit, and wondered how much more could be accomplished if they were able to establish genuine connections with the youth. Rahson realized he had more to offer.
Less than a year after his release from prison, Rahson began working with the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, now known as Neighbors in Action. In his current role as Youth Programs Coordinator, Rahson works with a team to engage young people in afterschool activities, summer employment, and other enrichment programming though school and community-based workshops and groups, internships, and on-site activities. These initiatives focus on leadership development, social justice and media literacy, antiviolence, community mobilization, social-emotional learning, and college and career readiness.
As part of NIA’s Arts to End Violence initiative, which engages young people in conversations about art as a tool for personal healing and community change, Rahson has led workshops across Brooklyn and Manhattan. He is also a lead facilitator for three NIA site-based afterschool programs: Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.), which trains young people who have been exposed to violence to become peer educators and community organizers, Justice Community Plus, which connects young adults with work-readiness opportunities, and the Alumni Youth Advisory Council, a new initiative spearheaded by Rahson, which supports further engagement and leadership development for young people, declaring that “emotional safety is the more important piece for me.”
Selfless in sharing himself and his own experiences, Rahson leads with kindness and integrity and amplifies Neighbors in Action’s anti-violence message with grace and passion.