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Horn Entrepreneurship

Rysheema Dixon Legacy Award

2023 I heart UD Day Rysheema Dixon

This IHeartUD Giving Day, Horn Entrepreneurship is celebrating and remembering a longtime supporter of Horn by creating the Rysheema Dixon Legacy Award. Meant to honor the impact Dixon had on the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and the City of Wilmington, the funding will be used to support UD student social innovators and entrepreneurs who best exemplify Dixon’s commitment to improving the lives of others through social innovation. Recipients of the Rysheema Dixon Legacy Award will be expected to utilize award funding in pursuit of sustainable societal impact.

Her Impact

Rysheema Dixon brought value through an abundance of ways, with community being the common factor in all of them. Contributing to the greater good of the people around her led her to make an impact working as an educator, as a social entrepreneur, and in service in the public sector. 

“Community is my focus in all three career paths I’ve taken,” Dixon said in an interview in 2021. “I get to work with a community of students at the University of Delaware to solve social issues. I get to work in the public sector, focusing also on everyday social issues. And there’s a huge asset-based community focus for my business as well.”

Commitment to Education and Academia

Education was highly valued by Dixon, a former Blue Hen who graduated in 2009 from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and in 2013 graduated with a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development/International Policy and Management from School for International Training. She later returned to the University of Delaware as an adjunct professor for Horn, where she taught an intro-level social entrepreneurship class that showed students why social problems are important and how to solve them. In addition to her experience in higher learning, Dixon also supported youth programming and early education by serving as a board member for Greater Oaks Charter School, Connecting Generations, and Leading Youth Through Empowerment (LYTE).

In 2022, Dixon launched her Global Social Entrepreneurship program in Liberia. In collaboration with Educate the Future Liberia, she was able to successfully support the mission of bringing social entrepreneurship curriculum to young Liberians in the region of Monrovia. Dixon made the trip to Liberia from Delaware to complete the first training program last year, and was working on Year 2 of the program before her passing.


In addition to her work in education at UD and beyond, Dixon dedicated much of her career to helping her community through public service.  From 2009 to 2011, she served two terms of service in Public Allies Delaware, an AmeriCorps program of the University of Delaware Center for Community Research and Service. There, she and her cohort developed, implemented and facilitated a recreational youth baseball team in Wilmington as a team service project.

During that same period, Dixon also acted as Project Coordinator for the Wilmington HOPE Commission, where she created infrastructure to help reintegrate incarcerated men into society through workforce development, substance abuse counseling, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Dixon acted as a liaison between over 40 social, faith and health based agencies and individuals, coordinating events, mentorships, and overall support for ex-convicts reentering the outside world.

In 2016, Dixon was elected to the Wilmington, DE City Council as the youngest candidate and first Black woman to hold one of the four at-large seats. She stayed in that role for five years, working tirelessly to improve the quality of life for citizens of the city. Her work focused primarily on the Southbridge area of Wilmington, where she partnered with Henrietta Johnson Medical Center, Neighborhood House, Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, South Wilmington Planning Network, and other nonprofit organizations to make lasting change.

Even after resigning from office to work full-time on her business RD Innovative Solutions, Dixon continued to work in the public sector, serving as the executive director of Delaware Pathways to Apprenticeship, a nonprofit that helps low-income individuals and justice-involved citizens gain the necessary skills, confidence, and connections to secure apprenticeships.


After finishing her second term as a public ally in 2011, Dixon founded and led her own consulting business, RD Innovative Planning. The business, which celebrated its 11th anniversary hours before Dixon’s passing, provides support for service organizations, startups, and entities working on community engagement and development. 

Most notably, RD Innovative Planning ran ChristianaCare’s Wilmington Play Streets, which temporarily closes a neighborhood block to traffic and provides play equipment to create safe, fun, and healthy spaces for children, families and neighbors to connect and play right outside their doors. The business and its play streets have been increasingly spreading to more areas outside of Delaware, showing the willingness of corporate sponsors and desire for community engagement.

Support the Rysheema Dixon Legacy Award

Rysheema Dixon and her dedication to public service and community impact work are a perfect example to young entrepreneurs and innovators of how to create value as a social entrepreneur. Her passion brought social entrepreneurship education to many and inspired them to create their own impact. Now, to support the students who keep Dixon’s spirit alive and continue her work, we are asking for your help to raise $50,000 to make the Rysheema Dixon Legacy Award an endowed fund. Make a gift now for I Heart UD Giving Day!

About Horn Entrepreneurship

Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement at the University of Delaware. Currently ranked among the best entrepreneurship programs in the US, Horn Entrepreneurship was built and is actively supported by successful entrepreneurs, empowering aspiring innovators as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

Topics: community, social entrepreneurship