“We’re back,” says Nikki Conklin, member of Women Rise Up! and the Neighborhood Organizing Institute’s Cohort 2. Bringing Women Rise Up! back to life is part of Nikki’s NOI project. “Women Rise Up! was more known in the community 20 years ago, but we’re back empowering and supporting each other. The Neighborhood Organizing Institute helps us each get our voice and bring our group up,” Nikki explains. “We cheer for each other.”

Women Rise Up! and the Community Kitchen Project co-hosted the LCEC’s Black Excellence and Wellness community dinner in February. Lisa Peyton Caire shared personal stories of the women in her family lost too early to heart disease and urged everyone present to take better care of themselves and the women around them. Haywood Simmons and Michelle Naff introduced their Sugar Free Me challenge, promising great-tasting re-makes of traditional favorite foods. And teams from the University of Wisconsin-Madison set up posters and distributed materials to encourage healthy eating.

When asked about her experience at the LCEC Nikki says, “Paul saw this single mom going to school and got me volunteering here. Then I wanted to do an internship here, and I ended up on the news. I’m laying down a path, and people can follow in that path. Being a single mom with two kids in a low-income neighborhood is not how I imagined my life to be – and now I get to be a resource for people in the community.”