GALS to Women on International Women’s Day

Whole-Bodied and gendered education are the core strategies that we as GALS, Inc. are using to grow the next generation of leaders into strong, self-assured, emotionally healthy people. It’s no small task, but we do this work because we believe it’s vitally important.

For International Women’s Day this year, instead reaching to past trailblazers for inspiration, we’d love for you to meet 4 GALS grads that make us excited for what the next generation will do!

Iriana Reyes-Corral, GALS Denver ’14
In 2016 I worked on my first national campaign. I was selected at the Colorado State Volunteer Ambassador to the Democratic National Convention in recognition of my 600+ volunteer hours registering to vote throughout Colorado. I was raised by a single mother so my definition of brave, strong, and beautiful begins with her. When I grow up I want to fight like my mom, thrive like my mom, and serve my community like my mom. I watched her work in non-profits all my life promoting social justice in education and labour throughout low-income communities and communities of color in Colorado. My mother was and is everything to me. She is stronger than anyone I know, committed, and passionate.

GALS energized me! GALS gave me the tools to push through the muck of life with a positive attitude by teaching me how to take a productive break. As a double major in college, being able to take a break and come back to the table more energized than before is amazing! I like to teach my friends how to do headstands in the library while we are working on finals, and I encourage them to M-O-V-E.

Shayla & Maureen Ruiz, her 7th-grade science teacher at GALS, this past summer.

Shayla Bezjak, GALS Denver ’16
Something I am most proud of is attending Smith College as a first-generation college student and being involved in leadership programming for other first-gen students like me.
I am inspired by my mentors: Maureen Ruiz who was my science teacher at GALS and my high school basketball coach, Cindy Wirth. Also, Britney Spears because she is iconic. To me being a woman means to be versatile, to be able to find strength in vulnerability, and to be able to find and build community.

I think GALS helped me to be more confident when I entered high school. It also exposed me to single-sex education and now I am at a historically women’s college. At GALS, I made connections with people who continue to inspire and support me, and I am always grateful for that. I think every young woman should know that they can eat cake whenever they want! And by that I mean, if you want something go for it — eat the cake. Another thing that took me a while to figure out and that every young woman should know is that it is okay to ask for help.

Iriam Islas, GALS Denver ’18
The thing that I am the proudest of since I graduated would have to be attending college while at the same time being part of an internship with Teach for America. I, along with 2 other students, am a founder of Future10x, an organization that focuses on storytelling and empathy, to unveil and understand the root problems within our education system. We bring students together to define, learn from, and resolve problems in order to bring a functioning prototype that fits future students’ educational concerns. Being a woman means that you grow, that you create change, that you develop ideas, that you bloom into wanting to be better than the person you were one day ago. Women don’t compete against other women, and they don’t shrink them either — they help each other out and fight for what they know will make them strong.

GALS created a sense of empowerment and leadership within me. GALS taught me how to advocate for myself and use my voice to communicate my needs and opinions. GALS also taught me that just because I’m a woman, doesn’t mean I’m weak, and that obstacles big or small are possible to overcome. GALS has set me up for success in ways I never really thought about or recognized before. I want every young woman to know that no matter how much you feel like giving up, and even if you do not know where you are in terms of loving and accepting yourself, you should still work hard to focus on yourself for yourself because that’s all that matters. You should bloom for yourself.

Katie Walsh, GALS Denver ’18
I am most proud of my job as a PreK teacher and as a volunteer coach for a 5th grade basketball team. Some women that inspire me include Leah Bock, Jenni Benningfield, Sydney Price and my momma Meichell Walsh. Most people will list famous women from the past or current times, but the people I learn most from are the people I have been able to have the privilege of meeting. Leah taught me that if you aren’t doing the things you love and something positive, then what’s the point? JB reinforced my love for the game, Sydney is an incredible female coach, and my momma has taught me more than anyone or any text book can. She gave me the gift of a home and a real family.

Being a woman means not giving up, pushing through a sexist world to reach your goals. As a woman you are born at a disadvantage in society. You have to work twice as hard to get half the credit compared to your male counterparts. It builds determination and strength. You are faced with obstacles, but you adapt, and instead of going around the barriers, you have to break them down for the next generation. There is no sleep when it comes to equality, and as a woman you are born with a metaphorical hammer to knock down all barriers and nails to try to fix what is broken.

GALS made me realize that I have a big heart, and I have used that to make the world better the best I can. I teach kids at a young age so that hopefully they grow up to be strong powerhouses in their communities (one may say the mitochondria of their communities. Sorry, I’m a future science teacher!) They have taught me that everyone is different, and there are different ways to learn. I apply that in all aspects of my life, even in my coaching. GALS has taught me that nothing stands in my way as long as I have a dream, and the dedication to follow that dream.
I want women to know that there are pressures everywhere, but if you stay true to yourself then ultimately you will be a happier person. It is OKAY to make a mistake but, as I tell my little girls, you have to push through your mistakes and learn from them. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Learn and grow. There is no losing, only learning, and there is no failing — only one more way it didn’t work, whatever it may be.