School Founder Fellows
This year’s Fellows are planning their schools as part of The Drexel Fund’s Founders Program. The first application deadline for the 2019-20 cohort is December 1.

Danielle Piscura
Garden Christian Academy, Cleveland, Ohio

Garden Christian Academy (GCA) is a classical Christian school focused on the cultivation of wisdom and virtue in its students, expressed through a godly character and a biblical worldview.

In March 2012, Danielle and her family relocated to Cleveland’s diverse Clark-Fulton neighborhood to found an intentional Christian community called Ephraim House. This experience combined with the four years that Danielle spent teaching ESL at the local public school where she focused on serving immigrants and refugees, brought the particular needs of her community into clearer focus. GCA will offer the high-quality, Christian education that she desires for her own children to the local community.

As GCA’s lead founder, Danielle believes that an academically robust, Christ-centered education can transform the safety, welfare, health, and prosperity of her underserved community. Located on the five-building campus of a multi-organization outreach hub called The Family Ministry Center, GCA aims to collaborate with the nonprofit partners of The Family Ministry Center in order to offer holistic supports to students and their families. This includes counseling and mental health services, as well as tutoring, nutritional advocacy, and arts education. Launching in August 2019 with grades K–3, GCA will add a grade level each year, through grade 12.

Danielle earned a B.A. from Miami University and a M.Ed. from Cleveland State University with concentrations in urban education and TESOL. In addition to Drexel’s Founders Program, she was accepted as a Founder with the Spreading Hope Network in June 2018.

Liz Russell
Autism Inspired Academy, Clearwater, Fla.

Through the lens of her own son’s experience, and discouraged by the limited local options for quality education for children with autism, Liz was inspired to provide a solution for her community. Autism Inspired Academy will provide a safe, nurturing, and structured learning environment for children with autism and related disabilities in grades K-8. Working collaboratively with parents, providing education and resources, utilizing innovative teaching strategies, and applying the necessary therapeutic supports will give each child the opportunity to reach their greatest potential.

Liz earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education from University of Nevada Las Vegas and a master’s degree in Educational Counseling from the University of Phoenix. She was an educator for 5 years, challenging 8th grade English students to share their ideas through writing. She then enjoyed a successful 8-year sales career, including a role as a National Sales Manager, for Pfister Faucets. She is currently the co-founder of Autism Inspired, a non-profit organization providing summer camp opportunities for children on the spectrum. Liz is passionate about using her knowledge and personal experiences with her son to benefit others in the community and believes all children have a right to an excellent education regardless of their disability or income.

 2017-18 Founders
  • Kevin Festerling, Kingdom Prep, Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Mark Martin, Build UP, Birmingham, Ala.
  • Sala Sims, STEMSpring Academy, Tampa, Fla.
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