Growing up, Johnson always knew she wanted to work with children. She had dreams of being a teacher or pediatrician as a child, but later discovered her passion through school art programs.
Creativity and serving others seemed to come naturally to Johnson as she talked with Scholar Up about her high school years. “I was a busy bee in high school,” she stated.
As a student at Nashville School of the Arts – a performance arts high school – Johnson was a member of student government, African dance ensemble, Beta Club, National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society as well as a majorette in the band. Despite her busy academic and extracurricular life, she made time to give back to her community by volunteering at the local food bank.
Upon high school graduation, Johnson didn’t know what path she wanted to take in college. As a student who went to a performing arts high school you would think her natural instincts would say “STUDY ART!” However, between graduation and having to become an adult over the summer, making long term decisions were stressful. All she was certain of is that she wanted to make a lot of money and work with children.
In fall 2012, Johnson started her freshman year at Howard University in Washington, D.C. “I was an undecided major my first year. I was lost,” she told Scholar Up. “I stopped creating art during that time because I didn’t see the value of it.”
While her major was undecided, Johnson’s busy bee spirit from high school transitioned to college. “I get bored easily when I have too much time to waste,” she said. Taking more interest in her passion for service, she joined various community service organizations and volunteered whenever she could.
After one semester at Howard, Johnson returned home to Nashville and transferred to Tennessee State University. “I got to a super low point after enrolling at TSU for my sophomore year. I was frustrated with my life, crying and all,” she confessed. When reflecting on her most challenging moments in college she, like many college students, had to adjust to becoming an adult fast. “I was broke with no time to work, so learning to depend on other people to be in control of my life as an independent adult was really hard. Waiting for people to do stuff for me really took a lot,” she added.
In addition to being new to ‘adulting’, Johnson’s academic life was taking a toll on her. Classes were requiring more than what she was used to in high school. “My social anxiety was out of control. I did so many speeches [for which] I got terrible grades […] because I would get choked up. I was never forced to communicate effectively so college really challenged that.”
Moments of frustration and uncertainty led her back to an old friend she pushed to the side: art! “I picked up a paintbrush and was immediately pacified. I got that aha moment like, ‘IDK what I want to do but it HAS to involve art!’ The rest was history.” Now well off into her junior year, Johnson was very different from the little girl who thought she would be a pediatrician and the freshman who imagined college as a non-stop party.
This is when she began to work on her business, kid extraordinaire, an urban youth magazine and non-profit that is dedicated to nurturing positive lifestyles and development in the arts. “We kept getting assignments to create magazines and I just kept making better versions of what was then Y Magazine,” Johnson said. She then transferred back to Howard University in D.C and graduated in the spring of 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a minor in psychology.
“There were so many instances where I thought I’d be homeless or not graduate because I was broke and family was too. I felt like I was always worried about something, but God got me through it,” Johnson said. Her exact word to describe her college experience was CRAZY. “I learned a lot of very important life lessons that I didn’t even realize until I graduated. I can look back over those years with peace and contentment that it’s over, but it all makes more sense as the days go by,” she told Scholar Up.
Through kid extraordinaire, Johnson offers travel programs, holds creative events that stimulate youth and inspire community engagement and provides internships. With the organization, still in its infancy, Johnson has big hopes and dreams for kid extraordinaire. “I see us on a yacht with our logo on the side, cruising to all different parts of the world with our kids sipping virgin sangrias,” she said jokingly.
On a more serious note, she envisions kid extraordinaire acting as a pillar in the community by “giving young black youth something to relate to and shape their world with ideas and expression,” Johnson told Scholar Up. “I see our travel program growing abroad, there are so many possibilities with this. I’m just here for the ride,’ she added.
Learn more about kid extraordinaire at kidexmag.com. Get social with kid extraordinaire at on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @kidexmag. Find out how you can get involved by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rishara Johnson is the founder of kid extraordinaire Magazine. Growing up in schools with developing art programs such as East Literature Magnet Middle School and Nashville School of the Arts began her creative journey. Throughout her undergraduate career at Howard University where she studied graphic design and psychology, she has committed to service above all and uses her mentor experience from Girl Scouts, NAZA, LOQSC, ASB and more to guide the youth she reaches through kid extraordinaire.