“Working with diverse groups is easy for me, and a large percentage of that is due to my Crossroads experience.”
The lessons Nia K. Evans gained at Crossroads School—awareness of differing points of view and our own impact on other people—have served her well socially and professionally. “Working with diverse groups is easy for me,” says Nia, “and a large percentage of that is due to my Crossroads experience.”
Since 2017, Nia has served as the director of the Boston Ujima Project, a nonprofit committed to building a new community-controlled economy in Greater Boston. Her role continues a dominant theme of her career: expanding the civic dialogue.
Nia entered Crossroads in seventh grade, and found it “unnaturally friendly,” jokes the self-described introvert. She and older sister Esi ’95 were drawn by the excellent music program. Nia, who plays cello and piano, briefly participated in orchestra, but gravitated to sports. Especially meaningful was the Life Skills Program, which demonstrated “actual care and attention to our development,” she says.
Nia earned her bachelor’s in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University, then returned to Los Angeles to found an arts program and teach. But a desire to address policy-level issues in education took her to Teachers College at Columbia University, where she earned a master’s in education leadership.
She helped run a literacy program for New York City homeless shelters before joining the Harlem School for the Arts, where she used her Crossroads experience to “foster the type of environment I was exposed to and influence educational policy.” Then, in 2013, a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin—a profound event that intensified Nia’s community work.
She took on volunteer leadership roles in the Boston NAACP, including chair of the economic development committee. In 2016, she became executive director of the Boston chapter. That led her to the Ujima Project
, which works to address issues including gentrification, poverty, homelessness, hunger, unemployment and lack of healthcare.
Nia holds close other Life Skills lessons from Crossroads, including “the importance of reflection and of valuing different parts of yourself and our world,” she says. “That seems a particularly pertinent conversation right now.”