Diversity Leadership Circle Member Spotlight: Shermika Duerson

Diversity Leadership Chair, Shermika Duerson’s, history with United Way began before she even knew it. “As a kid, you don’t realize you’re poor – I know I didn’t; it was my norm,” Shermika said. “I just remember seeing strangers that were kind and giving help to my mom.”

As Shermika grew up and began to realize her situation, she made a promise to herself to give back to others when, not if she improved her life. But that hurdle wasn’t conquered easily. “Poverty had such an influence on my life. It motivated me to have tunnel vision that helped me focus on my education. I knew that was my only way out, and even without the necessary resources I had to find a way to make it work,” Shermika said. And, in true tenacious Shermika form, she did just that.

After finishing school and starting her career, she began getting involved with United Way as a workplace donor. And after learning about Diversity Leadership Circle, she knew she had to be a part of it. “The DLC mission really resonated with me. My love for diversity and unique perspectives is such a big part of who I am, and getting to marry that with my passion for helping people, it couldn’t have been a better fit.”

Shermika hopes that through her work with DLC she can help more people understand poverty and just how important financial stability is to the whole equation of self-sufficiency. “I look at it as a mother. Because I am financially stable, I can provide for my children’s needs beyond just affording their education,” she said.  “Not worrying about whether the lights will stay on or if we will have heat in the house or a roof over our heads allows me to be present in their lives. I can focus on giving them the attention they need to reach their own potential.”

Naturally, part of Shermika’s passion financial stability derives from her own experiences. “Coming from where I did, it truly makes me feel whole knowing that it’s not something my children will ever have to experience. And hopefully, through our work with DLC, it’s an experience we can save many other children from, too,” Shermika said. “At the end of the day people matter, and that is something we always have to remember.

Interested in Diversity Leadership Circle? Contact Janine Robertson at janine.robertson@uwci.org for more information.