ST. PETERSBURG –Now standing strong at the age of 18, Janae Ledbetter continues to blossom into a beautiful young woman who carries her story with confidence.
When Oprah Winfrey is your role model, you tend to wonder how big dreams can become your reality in a dog-eat-dog world. Such are the dreams of Janae, a 2017 graduate of The Boca Ciega High School.
“Since I was a young girl I always dreamed of a lavish lifestyle with butlers, maids, personal chefs, the whole nine,” said Janae, smiling. “I dream big because that’s what I see on my TV screen. But when I look outside the window, I see what my reality is and that’s the south side of St. Petersburg.”
Not much here but vacationers, and in her eyes, lost hope for her generation. There is a but! In the Ledbetter household, Janae was taught that the sky isn’t the limit because there is much more than just the sky.
She credits her mother for teaching her that if she wanted to change her surroundings and beat the odds, then an education is key and to never doubt her ability.
At a young age, Janae developed a passion for writing.
“I always wrote down every thought or feeling that I had and they slowly turned into stories, poems and even articles,” said Janae. “I believe writing is an escape from the challenges of the world and it helps my mind to stay clear.”
The most drastic challenge happened in 2015. Instead of coming home to mom and dad as was common, she came into a broken place that was called home. In early January of that year, she lost her father to brain cancer. The household she thought she would live in forever was broken and unrepairable because a huge piece was missing.
“The loudest laughter was silenced and so was my spirit. All I could think of was ‘how could I go on?’”
As time went on, her mother’s brother, Uncle Juan, stepped in and swooped the family up like Superman and carried them on his back. He became the father figure that Janae and her brothers needed. But soon the wound that was being covered was opened again.
“In April of 2016, my uncle passed away in his sleep. I lost complete control of my life. I fell down and to be honest I wasn’t planning on getting back up. I was going to sit and dwell in my hurt because that’s what I thought was the only thing that I could do.”
Then one day, she saw a look in her mother’s eyes that she will never forget. It reminded her that if there is no struggle, then there is no progress. Let the rain pour so the rainbow can shine. In life, there are no periods, only commas signifying that her story is not over.
Through the storms of life, Janae remained active in the school and community. At The Boca Ciega High School, she was on the Homecoming Committee, was in the Sophomore Class Club, Principal Advisory Club, the Delta Gems, the AKA Akademy and much more.
Janae plans to attend Bethune-Cookman University and major in mass communication. In 10 years she hopes to be working at BET Networks. She’s now starting to make a blueprint of how she wants to create her own television and radio show. After all, Oprah is her role model.