Our Team

GALS Inc. across the nation

GALS Inc. is committed to preparing a unique and diverse generation of well-educated and motivated young women for innovative citizenship and leadership in our global society. Our team is comprised of people who model the core values and worldview of our work across the nation and around the globe.

 

Our Staff

Liz Wolfson

Chief visionary officer and founder, GALS Inc.

Liz Wolfson created the vision for the Girls Athletic Leadership Schools Inc. 2008. She raised over half a million dollars in angel funding, developed the strategic plan and moved to Colorado to open the flagship schools in Denver. Due to Liz’s leadership, GALS is the first Colorado home-grown educational network to expand beyond the state’s border, as GALS Los Angeles opened in 2016, and GALS Idaho is set to open in 2020. Liz has spent the bulk of her career working for CEO’s and Philanthropists in manifesting their visions and starting up corporate and philanthropic projects locally, nationally and internationally. Former non-profit clients include the Institute for International Sport, The American Montessori Society, The Rose Institute (for homeless youth) and a former Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Former corporate work includes creating the first global communications division for Comverse, a world leader in voice activated systems, and raising seed-funding for TaskMail, the first Jordanian/Israeli high tech start-up company. Liz received her undergraduate degree from Brown University and earned her masters Degree at the Hebrew Union College. Liz believes her passion for comprehensive health in schools stems from her upbringing in the world of competitive athletics where she competed in Division I Field Hockey. Liz considers herself a force in organizational behavior and embodied leadership.

Why GALS?

I was looking for a home both professionally and personally that expressed my desire to integrate body and intellect in a way that is organic to the feminine. The idea of shaping the next generation of young women by garnering the power of school every day—to me it is the idyllic implementation of Title IX.

Dhyia Thompson-Phillips

Deputy Chief of Planning and Performance

Before joining GALS Inc., Dhyia served as the Director of Strategy for City Colleges of Chicago where she led the Office of Strategy & Research at Malcolm X College. She was responsible for performance and strategic growth for the merger acquisition of its Healthcare School. Her initiatives increased student completion from 7% to 23% within 4 years by increasing staff-wide data literacy. As an adviser to the President and Chancellor’s leadership team, she developed initiatives for district-wide planning, budgeting, and operational improvement. Prior to MXC, she supported mission-driven organizations as a consultant, first at Huron Consulting Group in their Higher Education and Healthcare practice then later within her own firm. Dhyia considers herself a “unicorn” because she both understands and enjoys working with data and people, equally.  She has a Master of Education in Higher Ed Administration from Loyola University Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Why GALS?

I am the product of a single-gender education and benefited greatly from playing sports in both middle and high school.  Students at GALS are at an advantage because the staff and teachers connect with them as a whole child and not just as a student. GALS concept of engaging the “whole child” also extends into our day-to-day workspace. It’s refreshing to serve an organization that engages me as a “whole person” — not just as an employee. This experience brings me full circle: I’m an alum of an all-girls private high school, St. Scholastica Academy in Chicago, and I competed nationally in rhythmic gymnastics in addition to playing team sports in high school. Single-gender education is such a special and extraordinary experience for young adults in middle and high school. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to grow the GALS legacy.

Jennifer Green

Deputy Chief of Schools

Jenn Green grew up in Denver and has worked in school districts across Colorado for over 20 years, serving as teacher, administrator, curriculum developer, dean, and instructional coach. She is a big risk-taker committed to living her dream, which includes working for the Navajo Nation, joining a circus, performing on stage in New York City, Mexico, and Europe, raising horses, managing community gardens, and building an adobe house. All these experiences inform her teaching and leadership in schools, and she is excited to take it to the next level as part of the GALS Inc. team. Jenn has a BA in Anthropology (Stanford University) and an MA in Education (University of Colorado/Denver).

Why GALS?

When I started teaching, I felt like an undercover agent for social justice, working covertly through the classroom.  Finding GALS has allowed me to fully and unapologetically engage in this radical, transformational work. I feel the calling now more than ever to use my skills and experience to help students grow into the most authentic, empowered, and embodied versions of themselves, so that they can take the lead in creating a more just and equitable world.

Elissa Soden

Deputy Chief of Partnerships

Elissa grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and attended the University of Colorado at Boulder where she competed on the women’s tennis team. Prior to her work at GALS, Elissa worked in development and community outreach roles for Teach For America, Children’s Hospital Colorado, the Atlanta Falcons, and Kroenke Sports Enterprises. She loves swimming, yoga, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her husband and two children.

Why GALS?

Being part of a movement that empowers girls to take their space and develop as leaders is beyond humbling. At GALS, we believe that schools are the way that we can change the mindset of our next generation of girls. Embodied Education, defined by learning and living with our minds, our hearts, and our bodies, is the competitive edge for girls. We are the future of what feminism will look like, feel like, and want to enact in all facets of our lives.

 

Lynnsey Molinaro Gwaltney

Curriculum Specialist

Lynnsey has a Bachelor of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology and a Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus of Secondary Social Studies, both from the University of Arkansas. After graduating with her Master’s degree in 2012, Lynnsey joined Teach for America in Chicago where she completed an additional graduate program in Elementary Education at Dominican University. Lynnsey has taught at the University of Arkansas, Stagg School of Excellence in Chicago, IL, and Vantage Point in Fayetteville, AR. Lynnsey is a founding GALS Series teacher and works with GALS Denver, The Boys School, and GALS LA to continue to develop GALS Series curriculum. Out of the classroom, Lynnsey enjoys hiking, running, biking, skiing, and playing Frisbee with her Border Collie, Edwin.

Why GALS?

GALS is a place where people, students and adults, are allowed to thrive and know themselves.  GALS helped me discover that I am an athlete, my voice is powerful, and my ideas are important. I am continuously inspired by the people I work with daily, and I am proud to join a group of powerful leaders that strive to empower young people to know themselves, take up space, and demand change.

Penny Marez

Director of Operations

Penny Marez is from Fruita, CO and has been living in the Denver-metro area for the last 9 years. She has worked in education for almost a decade. She strives to make a difference in the lives of the youth in her community.

Why GALS?

GALS Inc. provides me the opportunity to fulfill my desire to make a difference in the lives of the youth around me. GALS also gives me the motivation even as an adult to proceed in life to not only make a difference with youth but the lives of adults as well.

Our Board

Barbara Wagner

Head of the GALS Inc. board, educational and nonprofit consultant
Los Angeles, California

  • Head of Marlborough School for 25 years (grades 7-12 independent, college-preparatory girls’ school in Los Angeles, CA)
  • Implemented innovative programs in science, humanities, and social sciences to empower young women
  • Developed a leadership program to provide young women with skills to build their confidence as visionary, capable leaders
  • Expanded programs in science and mathematics education to develop confidence and competence in young women

Why GALS?

I believe GALS Inc. is empowering each young woman in the schools to become the best person and student she can become. The expertise of the teachers and the role-modeling/mentoring they provide is awe-inspiring. The emphasis on Embodied Education in which the mind and body are integrated is impressive. It is humbling to witness the positive effects on GALS students!

Christa Doyle

Montessori educator, project manager and bureau liaison
Sarasota, Florida

  • Montessori Educator
  • Upper Elementary Level Coordinator
  • Teacher Mentor and Advisor
  • Montessori Model UN Project Manager

Why GALS?

GALS Inc. is the opportunity for all individuals to learn in a safe and developmentally appropriate environment. Support for community, connection to others, and individual reflection empower GALS students to reach their potential as human beings.

Ken Fisher

Entrepreneur 
Ft Lauderdale, Florida

  • Founder of Nationwide Paging Inc.
  • Founded nonprofit Heal The Planet Together
  • Founder and past Co-Chair of Broward County Real Estate Division
  • Co-Creator One Whole Peace
  • Completed Master’s program in Spiritual Psychology at University of Santa Monica

Why GALS?

I believe that by playing a part in educating, inspiring, and empowering our youth, I can create the largest positive impact within our society and on our planet. GALS Inc. is uniquely positioned to improve the odds of their students to function in the real world and, more importantly, to ensure their success as leaders and create happy, meaningful, and fulfilling lives.

Donna Good

Chief financial officer, The Rivers Project
Denver, Colorado

  • First Woman to head a G7
  • Project Director for Pope John Paul’s World Youth Days
  • CFO to 17 political campaigns
  • Ran largest early AIDS education campaign in sub-Saharan Africa

Why GALS?

I was a poor kid in Boston who went to a public, single-gender school, and I believe it changed my life.

Kerrissa Heffernan

Brown University, director of global sport
Providence, Rhode Island

  • Director of the Society of Royce Fellows and the Royce Fellowship for Sport and Society at Brown University
  • Director of Faculty Engagement at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University
  • Associate Professor of Liberal Arts at  Lasell College in Newton, MA
  • Head Coach of the Brown University Women’s Rugby Team
  • Co-founder and Director of Camp Colors (1993-2001), a summer-day program for pre-school children living with HIV/AIDS

Why GALS?

I firmly believe in the vision and mission of GALS Inc. and the recognition that gender plays a significant role in teaching and learning.

Caity Henderson

Student at Northwestern University 
Denver, Colorado/ Evanston, Illinois 

  • Former pioneering student in the first class at GALS Denver Middle School
  • Journalism major at Northwestern University
  • Health Educator in Chicago Public Schools
  • Assistant city Editor for the Daily Northwestern

Why GALS?

In the three years I spent at GALS, I gained a sense of confidence and community that propelled me to redefine my passions, values, and goals. My focus on humanism, girls’ education, and health originates from the formative years I spent surrounded by the incredible GALS community.

LaRhonda Jackson

Director of Communications, Turner Sports
Atlanta, Georgia

  • Board Chair, Power of Girls
  • Chair of girls’ mentorship programming on behalf of local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
  • Advisory Board Member, Westside Atlanta Charter School
  • Avid writer and storyteller
  • Proud “wanderluster”

Why GALS?

I grew up in a family of boys, and have long known and realized the power of my voice in a room full of men. That foundation has informed my passions as an adult, and I actively seek opportunities to help girls and young women realize the potential of their voice.

Alexandra Merlino

Finance director, CicLAvia
Santa Fe, New Mexico

  • Finance Director for CicLAvia
  • Executive Director for Partnership for Responsible Business
  • Served on the founding team for New Mexico Green Chambers of Commerce
  • Founder and CEO of Teres Kids
  • Founder and CEO of Authentics Home

Why GALS?

GALS Inc. creates an inclusive environment where growth is nourished through personalized attention and Embodied Education during a crucial time in a girl’s life. I’ve become a board member of GALS Inc. to make the opportunity a reality for more girls.

Nell Merlino

nellmerlino.com 
New York City, New York

  • Creator of Take Our Daughters to Work Day
  • Founder of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, the world’s first online micro lender and home of Make Mine a Million Dollar Business program
  • Fulbright Scholar in Great Britain
  • Author and activist, earning over 3 billion positive media mentions about what women and girls do and continuing to make the news
  • Founder of Born Worthy: 21st Century Rite of Passage for Girls to Womanhood

Why GALS?

GALS is a stunning achievement in contemporary education and cultural change. The combination of embodied learning and gender equality unleashes creativity, hope and collaboration. The nation needs to know GALS’s findings, strategies and success so it can be scaled, adopted and repeated in different forms the world over.

Saira Rao

Co-founder and creative director, In This Together Media
Denver, Colorado

  • Founded In This Together Media and growing it to profitability while pushing diverse kids books into the world
  • Named one of the Most Creative People by “Fast Company”
  • Invited to the Obama White House twice to discuss gender and media
  • Clerked for a United States Court of Appeals judge on the Third Circuit
  • Author of “Chambermaid” (Grove Press), a novel that was translated into five languages and optioned for film by Warner Bros

Why GALS?

GALS Inc. because feminism and secondary education go hand in hand beautifully, and GALS is the only game in the country doing it!

Iriana Reyes-Corral

Student at the University of Redlands

Denver, Colorado/ Redlands California 

  • Community Activist
  • Student Coordinator for Read Empower Attain Create Hope (REACH)
  • Community Service Chair for SPURS National Honor society at the University of Redlands
  • Field Campaigns intern with Voto Latino
  • Colorado State Volunteer Ambassador to the 2016 Democratic National Convention

Why GALS?

The greatest gift I ever received was my time at GALS in 7th and 8th grade. As a young woman, I was able to understand and experience an engaging and supportive community. In this community setting, I thrived academically, physically, and socially. I look forward to ensuring more students are empowered.

Wendy Talley

Director of Equity and Inclusion, Caring for Colorado Foundation
Denver, Colorado

  • A loving human being
  • Learned the power of forgiveness
  • Proud a mother
  • A 33-year career as a social work maverick
  • Had her acting debut in Social Imagination during mid-life season.

Why GALS?

GALS is a powerful space for personal, academic, and community exploration. Teachers tap into the passion, strength, and creativity of all students.

Anastasia Toomey

Founder, Front Porch Consulting and EOS Implementer, Meritage Funds
Denver, Colorado

  • First girl to play ice hockey in our regional upstate NY league
  • Spent 25 years working in advertising agencies large and small, in NY, Boston, and Chicago, on every type of client from Fortune 25s to tiny start-ups, in every industry you can imagine
  • Started, built, and sold local agency Agency Zero in Denver
  • Spends time now as an EOS Implementer helping entrepreneurs get what they want out of their businesses

Why GALS?

I have said it over and over again: I wonder what I could have become if I’d had had a GALS school when I was a kid. To see the confidence, self-awareness, ambition, intelligence, and pure guts of these pioneers inspires me to reach higher and work harder every day. Our education system is broken and having the opportunity to contribute in any way to a beacon of success like GALS Inc. is an honor.

Renita Thurkral

Founder and principal, Charter School Growth Hub; partner, Civil Rights Solutions; senior national legal advisor, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
San Francisco, California 

  • Junior high math teacher and tennis coach
  • Public defender in state and federal court in New York City
  • Launching and growing a civil rights consulting practice for public schools
  • Launching and growing a charter support entity to assist high-quality operators with strategic growth
  • Beginner – and persistent – surfer

Why GALS?

When I walked into a GALS campus the first time, I immediately felt the energy, confidence, warmth, passion, curiosity, and humor given and received between the faculty and the students. There was love and respect for self and others in this community, and it was palpable. Plus, as an athlete myself, I feel deeply committed to the vision of growing a community of students who are empowered and embodied.