My Last Year at GALS

by Nina Safane

This year will be my last year at the Girls Athletic Leadership School. Friends, family, parents, students, mentors, and coworkers all have the same question: “why are you leaving?” In many ways, the thought of moving on leaves me speechless. But I teach my students to trust their instincts and embrace their passions, so this is my chance to follow my own advice.

I wrote the charter for GALS as my senior thesis at Brown University and immediately began creating the school with Liz Wolfson, my co-founder and dear friend. At the beginning, I struggled to execute the vision with ease. I was a perfectionist, wrapped up in my own head and heart, unable to ask for help. One night, I needed to write a section about waivers, but I had no idea what that meant. I panicked, but when I called Liz, the solution was simple. She told me she’d do it, and she sent me a pizza. She would take care of waivers, and she would take care of me. I didn’t have to go it alone. I didn’t have to be wonder woman. I didn’t have to be perfect.

After GALS opened, I became more courageous and independent. I strengthened skills I had before and learned to fail. Often, the work was exhausting. I feared that I would be “discovered” as a fake, unequipped to take care of the students and school I loved.  But I showed up every day, regardless of my age, regardless of my fears, and soon, I wasn’t faking it anymore. I grew into the role of Head of School that once seemed so daunting to me.

In many ways, I grew up at GALS.

As my students improved their mile times, learned algebra, and went through puberty, I felt myself changing in ways less tangible but similarly defining. Together, we were learning who we are.

As I leave, I hope that I have taught my students to embrace failure. I made plenty of mistakes over the past eight years, from struggling with different behavioral issues to overextending myself to dealing with my own insecurities. I want the GALS community to see me as human. That is both the greatest gift and the greatest challenge of working in education: struggling with mistakes and vulnerability while also basking in the glow of human hope, resilience, and passion.

It is hard to imagine not being surrounded by the GALS community where I am inspired every day. At GALS, I get to witness kids grow, teachers develop, connections form, and people become incredible versions of themselves. These are experiences I will always carry with me.

Education is at the heart of what I care about, but it is time for me to seek new inspiration. While I love my job and my school, I want to explore the world. I want to sit on the other side of the classroom and be the learner again.

I’m on the move.