Breaking down barriers and building relationships across racial and cultural lines is the goal behind a business plan developed by Deonne Nelson of Superior.
After receiving her articles of incorporation for Unity in the Community, Nelson is working to build a network of volunteers to help children from cradle to college rise to the challenges of the next phase of their lives through mentorship.
"I want the college kids to mentor the high school kids,” Nelson said. “I want the high school kids to mentor the middle school kids. I want the middle school kids to visit the elementary school children."
And she's hoping business owners would be willing to allow college students to shadow them to prepare for their next phase of life.
A single mother of three and grandmother of 13, Nelson moved to Superior almost four years ago.
"When I came here, I came here to express my compassion, share my compassion with the community," Nelson said.
With her children involved in programs like Big Brothers and Big Sisters when they were growing up, she was inspired to become an agent for change in her newly adopted community. And she hopes to spread that throughout the Twin Ports.
"I haven't done anything where I didn't bring people into the circle; I cross cultural barriers," she said, but Nelson admitted it hasn’t always been easy. Even though her daughter lived in Superior when she moved to the community, she said she struggled when she arrived.
"I did it because there's more diversity needed in Wisconsin and as an African American woman, I really felt the first year I struggled,” Nelson said. “I struggled with depression, and I felt isolated because I didn't feel accepted here at first. It was a personal struggle. I come from the inner city of Minneapolis."
Councilor Jenny Van Sickle, an Alaskan Native, serves with Nelson on the Mayor’s Commission on Communities of Color.
“I first met her when working at Northern Lights (Elementary School), and she went up to meet the mayor to see how she can be involved,” Van Sickle said. “She's very active and vivacious.”
While she has a presence on Facebook and has developed a website with the help of a marketing firm, she said getting the word out about the new organization has been tough.
"Nobody is excluded," Nelson said. "It's meant to be inclusive. Everybody that wants to be a part is welcome to be a part. I'm looking for like a big brother, big sister. I want people who know how to fish to fish with our kids this summer. If you've got a boat, take our kids out boating. … Do the things Superior does but share them with somebody."