Michele Rapp, CEO (Chief Exploration Officer)
I am the proud owner and founder of the JUNIOR EXPLORER CLUB. What started out as an in-home daycare business, grew into so much more than just a company. I was a mom in need of something beyond a traditional daycare, so I began my search for an adventure all day kids’ service. Searching for something more than a traditional 4-walled daycare but when I came up short, I decided to create one instead.
So began my new adventure!
I started with 6 kids, including my two boys, and a notebook of adventurous ideas. Having the entrepreneurial spirit coursing through my veins, I knew that I was on to something. And that something would be the stepping stone to provide a unique service for families looking to provide their kids with something adventurous!
My vision for the JUNIOR EXPLORER CLUB is that we be seen as an extension for families and our community. To have a space where kids can be kids, discover new opportunities, and be inspired and empowered. This past summer, my little rascals style clubhouse dream came true with the purchase of my own building. This 7800 square foot Clubhouse, has undergone a total remodel complete with themed rooms, our own outdoor park and splash pad, and is scheduled to be open full-time early 2020.
Founded less than 7 years ago with only 1 program, we currently serve over 120 families and offer multiple programs to accommodate our families busy schedule. Our full-time and part-time programs include, Summer Camp, After-School care, Kindergarten Wrap, Preschool, Drop-in care and Sitter Services.
While being a business owner can be time-consuming, I still manage to find the time to enjoy hiking, camping and traveling with my husband Dave and our two beautiful boys, Jacob and Hunter. We currently resides in Upper Arlington with our many non-human family members including a black lab named Cheddar, two cats named Fionna and Jeffery and two snakes.
Kelly Dyas, Regional Center Director
Kelly has been a JEC parent for over 3 years and a seasoned professional in the childcare industry with over 18 years of managing experience. With her unique background as both a parent and a professional, she brings a strong sense of understanding and guidance to the JEC.
As our Regional Center Director, Kelly oversees both locations of club. Most recently, she has been working tirelessly bringing the new clubhouse up to the codes and standards during the remodel. With an impressive manner, she manages to juggle the multiple roles despite being pulled in all directions. Not only can she masterfully manage the entire staff, all the inner workings of running a childcare, and the many challenges that come with it, but she makes it appear effortless. Kelly’s impressive skills makes her an invaluable member of team.
Kelly is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and Franklin University grad school. When shes not wearing the many hats of the JEC, she enjoys yoga, working out and spending time with her family and new puppy. She resides in Upper Arlington with her two adorable kids, Lucas and Cindy.
Ciara Simula – Center Director for Saint Marks
Ciara, also known as Miss Cici, brings a spirit and childlike energy to our club. She came to us after 10 years of being a stay-at-home Mom and running a successful in-home childcare. So when Cici decided to get back into the outside workforce she focused on finding what she truly enjoyed: Children and creative arts.
While Cici began her JEC career almost 2 years ago as the Kindergarten wrap teacher, her mad skills and creative organization quickly moved her into the position of Center Director. Despite the high demands of overseeing the daily inner workings and staff of the Saint Marks program, she’s always there to stop and help if needed. Cici is the master at creativity and organization that allows the club to maintain its run as a well-oiled machine.
An artist and singer, she enjoys seeing live music, playing her guitar, and creating art—from simple crafts to complex drawing and painting. She loves to laugh, enjoys all things creative, and to spend time with friends and family usually playing board games and camping. Cici and her husband, Collin, live in the North Columbus/Upper Arlington area with their three children, Rowan, Miles, and Beatrice.
Cassandra Pritikin, Marketing Director
Cassandra came on board after spending eight years growing a successful and lucrative direct sales marketing business while enjoying being a stay-at-home mom. Ready for a change and a desire to help other women-owned businesses, she joined our team eager to hit the ground running. She brings a strong marketing & business background having worked in Corporate America, to politics, to advertising agency work and a Director of Marketing for a local fortune 500 company.
What started out as a helper for three-weeks, quickly turned into so much more. It’s been 4 years since she came on board, & in that time she has been an integral part of the company’s growth. Her energetic spirit coupled with her creative marketing flare can be seen in the work she produces. Cassandra is quick to bring her quirky sense of humor & a positive energy to our team.
A graduate of The Ohio State University, an a HUGE Mister Rogers fan, Cassandra and her husband, Bryan, reside in Upper Arlington with their two beautiful daughters, Taylor and Kimber and their dog, Hammer.
Kara Brackens, Administrative Director
Kara is the Jack(lyn) of all trades. A true Renaissance woman at the JEC. Kara came to us with extensive knowledge in accounting and data management but her skills go far beyond the “books”. When Kara’s not busy behind the desk, you can usually catch her surrounded by the kids. She’s just as compassionate and great with the kids as she is intelligent. Working closely with our Regional Director, Kelly, she has been quote busy helping bring the new location to life.
A true sweetheart, Kara always has a smile and a kind word for everyone she meets. Currently residing in the Columbus area with her boyfriend, Novice, and their sweet kitties, Mr. Mittens and Ms. Kitty.
PRE-K AND KINDERGARTEN WRAP TEACHERS
Mary Fried, Pre-K Instructor
Mary gives new meaning to the words kindness and patience. To watch Mary interact with the children in such a gentile manner is truly a sight to see. Not only has she proven to be an amazing addition to our new Preschool program but her dedication into growing the curriculum is driven by her desire to be the best and give the best to our littlest Explorers.
Mary brings extensive knowledge of the Reggio Emilia teaching approach with so much heart and dedication. We love watching Mary in action and the kids just love their Miss Mary.
Jill Smith, K-Wrap Instructor & Art Teacher
Jill is the JUNIOR EXPLORER CLUB master at blending the world of art with teaching. As our K-wrap teacher for both the AM and PM Kindergartners during the day, she effortlessly slips into the After School Club Art Teacher role with ease. The children always look forward to her creative art projects and get excited when Miss Jill gets out the random supplies that beautifully turn into mini masterpieces.
Jill is another JEC guru when it comes to the Reggio Emilia teaching method. Providing the staff with the concepts and proper implementation of this unique teaching method, is one of her specialties. A graduate of the Columbus College of Art and Design and a Masters Degree from The Ohio State University, she also enjoys hiking, camping and spending time with her 9 year old son, Aiden and all their many pets.