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“Mrs. Draper has become a valued mentor for our daughter. She instills a practical approach to expanding social skills allowing the girls to express themselves in a way to achieve a higher level of self confidence in the process. She has a way of making an ordinary girl become extraordinary.”
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Janelle Johnson Draper
In September of 2010, Foundation to Fly, Inc. was officially established; however, founder and executive director, Janelle Draper, had been preparing for the launch of this program for years.
While attending Georgia College & State University from 1997-2001, Janelle was heavily involved in community service. She was a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma, a national service sorority, and served two years as president. Janelle also volunteered with the Big Brother/Big Sister program and was selected as the “Big Sister of the Year” in 1998. Janelle and her little sister, Khiwana, would work toward short-term goals and celebrate accomplishments by saving pennies that had been earned by Khiwana for positive behaviors. Together, Janelle and Khiwana would make wishes on the pennies and throw them into the fountain as symbols of future hopes and dreams. The two were featured in the local newspaper and became the faces of the United Way campaign for Middle Georgia.
After graduating college with a degree in Early Childhood Education, Janelle became an elementary school teacher in 2001 where she continued helping children grow and flourish from the inside out. Her lessons went straight to the heart of the child, beyond the required state curriculum. For example, in the winter her students would collect hats, scarves, and mittens for underprivileged families. When Hurricane Katrina displaced families to an area near her home in Cumming, Georgia, Janelle organized a “Cardboard Camp-out” to rally support for the families in need and help students experience a night without shelter. Families from her school slept under the stars in cardboard boxes, as the temperature dropped below freezing. Throughout the night, families participated in storytelling, team-building activities, and a clothing collection. Bag after bag of warm clothes were donated to those in need, and people left with a renewed appreciation for warmth. She once again found herself making local news.
While attending graduate school through Lesley University for a Master’s Degree in Creative Arts in Learning, Janelle planted the seeds for Roots and Wings. Lessons began to form into a program designed specifically to help girls grow in the areas of leadership, self-esteem, and the impact of their actions. As dreams of establishing this nonprofit organization were becoming reality, Janelle left her full-time teaching position to formally give the program its “wings” to fly.
Janelle and her husband, Jason, currently reside in Georgia. They love watching their son grow up. Their son, Teague, is Janelle’s greatest sense of joy and he fills her with more pride than could be measured. As a family, they enjoy camping and trips to the beach.