A Public All-Girl Middle School is Helping Girls Succeed Academically and Emotionally During a Global Pandemic

In the San Fernando Valley, an all girls public charter school, GALS LA (Girls Athletic Leadership School), is going above and beyond to engage and educate its students during the Covid-19 pandemic. GALS LA is a middle school, co-located at Panorama High School. The community GALS serves is predominantly low income and Latino, 85% of their students qualify for free and reduced lunches. The city of Panorama currently has 579 positive Covid cases, the second highest of any city, in the San Fernando Valley. 

My daughter is a 6th grader at GALS; she chose this school mainly because of the all girl environment. She said it made her feel more comfortable. One of the main reasons why I chose GALS for my daughter was because of its focus on the social emotional needs of middle school girls. They even have a class called GALS 101, where students can express how they are feeling. Last week they learned about limiting beliefs, and what it means to have a growth mindset. The GALS vision states that, “GALS LA takes a holistic stance to development that recognizes the deep connection between a healthy mind and a healthy body. Through the integration of a health and wellness curriculum addressing the physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs of female adolescents, GALS LA helps students to emerge as leaders of their own lives.” I think all middle school girls can benefit from a well-rounded holistic environment like this. I felt it was especially important for my daughter because she struggles with self-confidence, and speaking up for herself. Thankfully, her mother is the opposite. 

Since the first week schools closed, GALS has made sure that all of their students check in every morning with their Wellness Coach (which is similar to a Homeroom Teacher.) This is something I haven’t heard of any other schools doing. If they do not check in by 9:30am, the teacher will reach out. There have been several days where the girls have earned a 100% attendance, and many others where attendance was 97% or 98%. I think this is a crucial first step in distance learning. All schools should consider doing this.

It’s not just for attendance purposes, it also gives the teachers a chance to check in with the girls emotionally and see how they’re doing. A couple weeks ago my daughter’s Wellness Coach, who is also her English Language Arts teacher, asked my daughter how she was doing. She said she felt overwhelmed. Her teacher asked more questions, and found out the workload was causing anxiety for my daughter. She agreed to lighten the amount of coursework for the week. This was a huge relief. She also mentioned that she could have a counselor call her, if she wanted to talk more about how she is feeling. 

The first week of school, the teachers sent out work packets for every class, because not all students had a device and/or internet at home yet. The second week we began using Google Classroom. When virtual learning began, I was pleased to see individual assignments clearly laid out in Google Slides, and within the slides, there was a video of the teacher giving instructions. The rest of the slides have a template for students to fill in and answer questions. There’s usually a cute GIF and a few words of encouragement from the teacher. Teachers also use other educational platforms such as; Nearpod, Achieve 3000, Khan Academy, Brain Pop, and Moby Max. I think this method of teaching is beneficial to families who need to have a flexible schedule and may not always be able to join a live class. Teachers also hold regular office hours, where students can join them on Zoom and ask questions. All of these options are beneficial, because there are many students that are looking after younger siblings, and they may not be able to do their school work until later in the day.  

 In addition to academic support, the staff at GALS has a community meeting with students and parents every Friday, Coffee with the Principal once a month, and grade wide check in meetings all done via Zoom. We’ve also had spirit weeks, bring your pet to a community meeting, and we are starting our GALympics this week. Another important component of the GALS model is Movement. Movement is our form of P.E. During normal circumstances, it’s the first thing students do in the morning. On the GALS website, Movement is described as, “Movement both optimizes learning potential, boosts cognition and memory, and ignites a positive self-image in students.” Currently staff at GALS are teaching live Movement classes once a day, including yoga, cardio-dance, cardio boxing, strength, and stretching. And this week one of our 7th grade students taught a live Movement class – talk about leadership!

Every week a community newsletter is sent out with tons of resources including mental health providers, local food pantries, childcare, Coronavirus testing sites, legal aid services, immigrant rights resources, healthcare programs, domestic violence resources, and updates from the Mayor and Governor. GALS has also partnered with local nonprofits that have helped distribute diapers, wipes, formula, and other food items to families in need. The principal, Vanessa Garza, is always accessible to parents and has even personally delivered some of these items to families. 

As you have read, GALS LA, is going above and beyond to make sure their girls succeed, not just in school, but in life. If you are interested in learning more about how the GALS philosophy, “Empowering girls to succeed academically, lead confidently, live boldly, and thrive physically”, you can visit https://www.galsla.org/ . There are also several virtual open house meetings coming up.

You can sign up at the link below. Let them know that you heard about GALS from La Comadre!

Open House Sign Up Link:


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Roxann Nazario

Roxann Nazario

Roxann Nazario is a single parent living in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Born and mostly raised in the San Fernando Valley, Roxann experienced her own struggles as a student in LAUSD, growing up in North Hollywood. Roxann pushed through her struggles in school and right after high school she attended The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles, where she received her Associate’s Degree in Interior Design. Roxann made sure to play an active role in her daughter’s education, by becoming an active parent volunteer. From field trips, to book fairs, to starting a new parent group called, Parent Voice, at her daughter’s school. Wanting to get more involved and make a difference, she began to get civilly engaged in local elections by organizing parents in her community. Roxann is now a Parent Engagement Coordinator with Speak UP, where she works with parents in LAUSD’s Board District 3 and 6. Roxann recently became a Board Member on the Sylmar Neighborhood Council. And she proudly represents her Assembly District 39, in the California Democratic Party. Roxann has been a blogger with La Comadre for two years and she is grateful to be a part of the La Comadre Network.

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