Non-profit, Foundation to Fly empowers girls of all ages, to be confident, self-assured leaders
By: Angela Veugeler
For any parent, helping to guide your child through adolescence can be overwhelming. Most parents work hard to try to set their child up for success, but with so many outside influences, it’s easy to find yourself worrying if there is something else you can do to help instill a sense of self-confidence in your child. Foundation to Fly was created to do exactly that. Founded in 2011 by Janelle Draper, Foundation to Fly is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose aim is to empower girls of all ages to be confident, self-assured leaders. Knowing how difficult growing up can be for girls and how they tend to internalize things, Draper felt driven to start the organization. “It’s my way of doing what I can to pay it forward, for the girls to be able to ask questions and to give them tools they need to help navigate the rest of their lives,” she shared.
The after school program, Roots and Wings, is for girls in grades 3-5, providing lessons rooted in social and emotional intelligence as well as universal traits of leadership. Currently meeting weekly at White Oak Elementary in Sugar Hill, the group is limited to 16 participants and has had a waiting list every year. Each week, the group participates in different team building activities, service projects or
challenges. The aim is to help the girls gain a greater understanding of how to manage their own emotions (both socially and emotionally), build communication skills, grow as leaders and most importantly, realize how much they matter. “We really try to teach the girls the impact they have on everything- both positive and negative,” shared Draper.
Just before Easter their meeting involved filling Easter eggs. Each girl took a dozen candy-filled eggs home with them along with a sign reading, “You’ve been egged.” Draper encouraged the students to visit one or two neighbors they were familiar with and hide the eggs for them to find, leaving the sign behind and spreading joy.
They discussed as a group why service to others is important and how spreading joy can have a huge positive impact. One girl shared, “If you’re making someone else’s day, on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s about a 9.9 chance that it’s going to make your day, too.” Another girl chimed in about spreading joy, “It’s like a very good virus!”
“Service is really about everyone that receives as well as the person giving the service. It shows that you matter; that kindness might not happen if it weren’t for you,” said Draper.
One of her favorite meetings is when the 5th graders graduate. They have each fifth grader stand up while all of the girls share something positive about that one girl. “It is so impactful to watch the moms seeing other girls surrounding their daughter and lifting her up in a loving, kind way.” Draper shared, “Being a girl is tough, navigating girlhood is tough. They are their best selves here and I’m fortunate to see that.”
Draper hopes the positive impact Foundation to Fly is having at White Oak will grow into other schools and organizations in order to reach more girls. The White Oak chapter will be looking for other possible locations in the fall to host more groups. If you would like to learn more or are interested in starting a chapter, serving in some capacity, or sponsoring, visit foundationtofly.com. ■