As an active participant in my daughter’s education, I have always been looking for ways to engage her mind with academic and artistic outlets. When I discovered the Girls Athletic Leadership School (GALS) in Arleta, I found the program was able to solve the great paradox in education by merging creative learning plans with physical activities that enhance the emotional intelligence of a student.
Looking towards my daughter’s future, I wanted her to be surrounded by caring teachers and to build friendships that would last a lifetime, all while learning and feeling safe. The GALS program has met all these goals and has helped my daughter build upon her character and leadership skills in a way that keeps her energized and eager to learn.
Additionally, I wanted a learning environment with a non-traditional approach to learning. An all-gender school is unique, but this program went further by using a holistic approach to learning focusing on math and science in settings that mix active learning, where the girls are in motion, with small classroom sizes in nurturing learning environments.
Having my daughter exposed to non-stereotypes was also a component that attracted me to the school. There is a conscious effort to break stereotypes displaying vivid and bold colors reflecting the attitudes and inner qualities of the girls. Wrestling is another course offered to help embolden the girls.
My daughter is exposed to a blend of hyper-involved learning tactics like yoga and martial arts in math courses and yoga and self-awareness discussions to start the day off with a positive attitude and focus on learning.
The 200 girls attending the 6th and 7th grades build a sisterhood because of the interaction components of the school and strengthen their abilities to communicate and self-express.
Extracurricular opportunities such as performing and visual arts, gardening, voice, women’s studies, math and reading enrichment and dance are especially gratifying for my daughter as she feels more at ease in an all-gender school when participating.
I understand this type of school may not be for everyone, and some may think that my daughter is losing out on vital social interaction with boys – but school is supposed to be more than socializing and exposure to the current culture. At its core, it should focus on learning and self-awareness.
Schools like GALS generally tend to be private with expensive admissions and monthly dues. Thankfully, this is a new model of public schools is free to all. Students do come from various backgrounds, and the ability to have this type of school providing such a high standard of education to 84 percent low-income qualifiers, 92 percent Latina, 15 percent special education and 23 percent English Language Learners was another reason I discussed, toured, and eventually agreed with my daughter that this was the right school to attend.
Equally important is the focus on my daughter’s health. Maintaining a healthy outlook is just as important as a student’s focus on academic goals. The two, when paired, help promote personal growth and an overall beneficial attitude towards self and others.
Incorporating exercise and motion into learning lessons connects the learning component with the health and well-being of the student – feeding the soul as much as the mind.
By redefining the learning experience, in a single gender school, this environment breaks the general expectations of pass-fail outcomes. And by invigorating the way my child learns, it helps alter her own perception of what kind of student and person she is, creating a dynamic individual.
Ultimately, I want my daughter to be self-sufficient, bold, empowered, and a life-long learner. This experience in a single-gender setting, I believe, helps build those crucial elements in her and prepares her for a world of inequalities that she can help change.
Yoseline Yajaira Ortiz
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