Alumni Spotlight: Valerie Richards

Valerie Richards is a social worker, professor at USC, community activist, and a LDIR.  She is a member of the 2000 Community Based Program cohort, and the project she implemented, along with fellow LDIR alumni, as a part of her training is still ongoing today.

“As a social worker, member of the African American community, and a woman I have always felt it was my duty to be a voice for the marginalized and the underserved” said Valerie.

Cultural awareness and interethnic relations has always been a large part of Valerie’s work and activism.  It is as much a part of her work to educate herself on issues of social justice and cultural diversity as it is to educate others.  Valerie believes it as important to become an ally to different communities as it is to serve your own.  She is always striving to learn about different cultures and crossing the boundaries that divide communities.  Being a part of the LDIR training program helped to expand her knowledge, and gave her a network of community partners who continue to help support her growth and work.

“One of the big things I learned from LDIR was concerning privilege.  I had always been conscious of the ways I had experienced certain areas of privilege but LDIR really opened my eyes to my privilege as a citizen and as a heterosexual.”

Valerie’s experience and knowledge led her develop a cultural diversity workshop for the youth who volunteered with Cedar Sinai’s Teen Hotline as her community project for LDIR.

“We created this workshop in response to a number of hate crimes that were happening at the time and not receiving the attention they deserved” said Valerie.  “I believe that no social issue is only one person or one group’s issue.  We are all affected.”

The Teen Hotline is a safe space where teens from all over the country can call in and talk to other teens about the struggles they face.  Valerie believes the training benefits the teen volunteers who talk to a wide variety of callers, and has even involved her students at USC in the training and volunteer work.  The most amazing part is that 12 years later this program still helps educate youth.

“LDIR asked us to create a sustainable program that would benefit the community and that’s what we committed to.”

Valerie attributes much of her success with the project to one of her fellow cohort members, Lorena Vega.  Valerie and Lorena bonded during the LDIR training and over the years have continued to help each other grow as community leaders and allies.

“I have been a feminist since age 11, fighting for issues of social justice has always been a part of who I am, but what LDIR really instilled in me was to always do the analysis, to make connections, and continue to educate myself.”

Valerie will continue to do what she can in small ways to address larger issues.  She is currently a volunteer at Peace over Violence, continues to instill within her students the need for caring, and hopes to empower the many people she meets.

“There are things we have control over in our lives and as individuals, and we can affect change.”

Tell us how LDIR has made an impact on you and your community work!

Contact Bethany Acevedo at bacevedo@ldir.org to share your story.