Kisha Bird Steps Down as Director of Youth Policy; Nia West-Bey to Succeed Her May 1

Washington, DC, April 29, 2021—The Center for Law and Social Policy today announced a long-planned transition of leadership on the organization’s Youth Policy team. After nearly 13 years of extraordinary creativity and leadership at CLASP—and as Director of Youth Policy since 2014—Kisha Bird will depart the organization on June 4 for a major new step in her life, to move to Ghana with her new husband and focus on her new business, Travel Deeper Inc. 

Nia West-Bey, PhD will assume the role of Director of Youth Policy, effective May 1, allowing the two of them to continue collaborating on a transition for several weeks. Nia has played a leadership role on the Youth Team since 2016 and brings an extraordinary background before she came to CLASP, as a researcher and nonprofit executive with deep expertise and commitment to young people.

“Kisha’s accomplishments for young people over her decades-long career are unparalleled, and so are her contributions to CLASP,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of CLASP. “At a moment of national reckoning about young people, economic opportunity, and racial justice, she has done so much to reframe the debate, place proposals that are both doable and transformational in front of policymakers, and elevate the voice and leadership of young people themselves. She is a rare leader who combines deep insights into public policy and how it can and must work better to meet the needs of young people; boundless passion that has made her a nationally recognized and sought-after expert; and unmatched creativity about how to build the advocacy strength and partnerships that lead to success, above all by centering young people themselves. All of these talents came together in her extraordinary work to create and lead the Young Adult Engagement Strategy, which has evolved into A New Deal For Youth, in which CLASP and partners are supporting a cohort of 40 youth and young adult Changemakers to develop and advocate for their own demands for a bold agenda and strategy to transform public policies that affect them.” 

Olivia also highlighted Kisha’s role in the development of CLASP as a whole. “Kisha has played a central role in CLASP’s evolution over these years, as a brilliant leader. Kisha has also been a key driver in CLASP’s racial equity work, helping guide that effort over 10 years.” 

Among Kisha’s other accomplishments at CLASP are the creation of our Justice team, being asked to testify before legislative bodies—including the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Education and Labor in a 2018 hearing entitled “Eliminating Barriers to Employment: Opening Doors to Opportunity”—leading the Communities Collaborating to Reconnect Youth Network (CCRY), and creating the recently launched New Deal for Youth. She first came to CLASP to lead the Campaign for Youth, a national coalition co-chaired by CLASP focused on addressing the needs of out-of-school youth and investing in them and their communities. Her leadership in partnership with many others, including young people, helped to spur the Opportunity Youth movement, increase public and private investments and policy attention to this often left-out youth population. She has also been a thought leader in the boys and men of color and young women of color spaces, bringing together anti-poverty and youth policy organizations, as well as community leaders, with race and gender justice advocates to shift narratives, dismantle racist policies, and create equitable systems that work for young people of color. 

“To build on Kisha’s groundbreaking accomplishments and take them to the next level, I am truly delighted to introduce her successor, Nia West-Bey, PhD, who was the obvious choice when we learned of Kisha’s planned departure last year. Nia joined CLASP’s Youth Policy team in 2016 following a distinguished career as a researcher and the creator and Executive Director of a direct-service youth nonprofit here in Washington, DC – giving her a span of knowledge and expertise from ground-level to research to national policy,” said Olivia. “As a psychologist, Nia has a deep understanding of mental and behavioral health and has brought that to bear as a leader on both the Youth team and in our organization-wide Mental Health work group. She’s frequently asked to present and serve on committees about the intersection of poverty and mental health, including for the American Psychological Association and the Prevention Institute, among others.” 

Among Nia’s major contributions while at CLASP, she has led work with states as a part of two major technical assistance initiatives: Parents and Children Thriving Together (PACTT) focused on two-generation policy approaches to better support whole families, and Policies Advancing Transformation and Healing (PATH) focused on policy and systems change to better support youth and young adult mental health. Nia has led several data analysis efforts on behalf of the Youth Policy Team and CLASP, overall, including our signature annual analysis of the Census Bureau’s poverty report. She has also led the focus group research that launched Our Ground, Our Voices, a brief and fact sheet series focused on the structural barriers experienced by young women of color. 

Nia has partnered with Kisha in the leadership of the New Deal for Youth, authored many in-depth reports that bring to life the experiences of young people with low incomes, particularly those from communities of color, and led a briefing at U.S. Capitol that was keynoted by Rep. Ayanna Pressley about the experiences of girls and young women of color. 

“We will never be able to sufficiently thank Kisha for her dedication and leadership at CLASP over more than a decade. We wish her well as she starts her new adventures in West Africa. And we are thrilled that Nia has agreed to step into the role of director and can’t wait to see the extraordinary successes ahead for the Youth Policy Team under her leadership,” said Olivia.