Founder and Executive Director
Hi everyone! My name is Debralyn Woodberry-Shaw (she/her) and I am the founder and executive director of ELIE Circle. The idea for ELIE Circle came about in 2010 when I was a summer camp counselor working with 6-19-year-old girls. In 2014, I started work on ELIE Circle Manual: A Guide to Understanding and Engaging Black Adolescent Girls in my MSW program at the University of Pittsburgh. I soft launched ELIE Circle in 2015 facilitating training sessions based on what I learned during my Master of Social Work (MSW) program specifically around trauma and Black young people. ELIE Circle officially became a LLC in 2017. After informally conducting and facilitating research, I decided to enter an Education PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh in 2019 to learn more about research to improve my practice. Besides diving deeper into research, my primary goal of going into the PhD program was to expand ELIE Circle. As a PhD candidate, I am currently exploring the gendered racial identity of 5th-12th grade Black girls in community-based educational spaces. [Updated 7.2023]
Yes, ELIE is an acronym!
Shortly after the idea of ELIE Circle was planted in my mind, my maternal grandmother passed away. This was about 5 years after my mother passed away. At the time all I knew was I wanted to support Black girls and women but I wasn't sure what to do yet. However, I did know I wanted to honor the memory of these two amazing Black women. I decided to name this new endeavor after them and landed on using our middle initials. After I looked up the meaning of ELIE and discovered it means, “the Lord is my God”, I knew that was the official name. I added Circle a little later to represent the importance of community, unity, and wholeness.