Women Making a Mark: Elizabeth Elango

She’s leveraging her talent and personal experience to give refugee girls a quality education

Photo by Martha Williams

Elizabeth Elango’s role as CEO and Head of School at Global Village Project (GVP), a school for refugee girls located in Decatur, is more than a career to her—it’s a sincere passion. She joined GVP in 2020 and says that everything in her life—her experiences at an all-girls school in her home country of Cameroon, her arrival in the U.S. as an immigrant teen trying to navigate a new culture, and her extraordinary 20-year career working for nonprofit organizations, including the Carter Center—all prepared her for this.

“There’s so much about my story that overlaps and intersects with the stories of the girls,” she says. “One of the things I’ve always tried to do is be at a place where my best ability intersects with the world’s greatest need, and right now, it’s at a refugee girls school in Decatur, Georgia.”

Elango has spent decades working in the nonprofit sector and served as CEO of Junior Achievement Africa in Ghana, leading the program in 15 countries on the continent, before returning to the states to join GVP. She intimately understands the unique challenges faced by the girls, who are all fairly new to the U.S., arriving from various countries. Typically, they’re placed at public schools upon their arrival, without being properly acclimated to American culture and language. “We teach them in a way that’s responsive to the needs that they have,” she says.

Indicators show that the refugee population will grow, and Elango points to the crisis in Ukraine as an example. She wants GVP positioned to help as many girls as possible. “Most of the girls have experienced turmoil in their families and in their communities, and yet, they’re so resilient,” she says. “They’re committed to their education, and it’s really inspiring because it makes all of us want to be our best and give our best to them.”