In 1995, WINGS founder Ginny Deerin attended a women’s leadership conference and heard the spellbinding Johnetta Cole, then president of Atlanta’s Spelman College, give the keynote address where she spoke about how girls and women often keep themselves locked up in small birdcages. Cole urged the audience to envision ourselves soaring beyond the cage – the door is open, it’s up to us to fly.
During this same time, Ginny began recognizing there was a whole set of skills like empathy, individuality, and communication that could have guided her life differently if she had learned them early on. It was then that Ginny made a commitment to dedicate her life to making sure youth learned these skills. On a yellow legal pad, she scribbled a list of the vital skills, using layman’s words, and crafted a mission for what she wanted to achieve: “By the time that children are teenagers, they will know how to live joyfully, powerfully, and responsibly.”
Flying home from the conference, she happened upon a copy of Time magazine featuring Daniel Goleman on the cover, who had just written the book, Emotional Intelligence (1995). Inside she found a list that nearly matched perfectly the one she’d sketched on the legal pad, enumerating the set of skills of an emotionally intelligent individual. But, it was the Emily Dickinson poem “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers” that pulled all of these moments together, inspired our name, and distilled Ginny’s vision – to help children soar with WINGS.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
BY EMILY DICKINSON
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.