Mission Statement (back to top)
The goal of Girls Support Network is to Engage, Enlighten, and Empower middle school girls
to become the best that they can be during this transitional time in their lives. By meeting together monthly and addressing important issues, we help build strong girls who make
smart choices and thrive during adolescence and beyond.
Middle School: Don't Just Survive... Thrive!!
We incorporate nine core values into our programs:
Our Program (back to top)
GSN is a fun interactive empowerment program designed just for Middle School Girls!
We hold monthly meetings during the school year in which we tackle Hot Topics, such as:
Drug & Alcohol Awareness
Our meetings include fun interactive games, guest speaker lectures, and small group activities and discussions. GSN is a great way to have fun, meet new friends, and be a part of a generation of girls pledging to make smart choices!
For program schedules, please visit our Programs page.
House Rule (back to top)
GSN has a House Rule, which we recite together at the start of each meeting:
All Who Enter
Agree To Be
Respectful & Kind
To All Inside
We also have a No Cell Phone rule. Girls are asked to put their cell phones away
so they can fully participate without distraction.
GSNotebook (back to top)
The GSNotebook is a tool designed to help middle school girls commit to making smart choices during their adolescent years and beyond.
The GSNotebook contains pages for note taking, journaling, and creating personal pledges based on meeting lectures. Each girl will receive a GSNotebook at their first meeting and should bring it to every meeting.
Girls Give Back (back to top)
GSN believes in giving back to the community, and participates in the following programs:
CHOC Toy Drive: We hold an annual toy drive to benefit CHOCO's Toy Chest,
the Gifts-for-Patients Program at Children's Hospital of Orange County.
GSN Community Outreach: Our 8th Grade Program includes monthly
service projects that get the girls connected with their communities and
learning the value of giving back. See our Programs page for details.
Pearl Cotliar Award: GSN is honored to present this award opportunity.
One winner will receive a $1,000 cash award! Click here for details.
Volunteer Program (back to top)
Come help us empower middle school girls while gaining valuable leadership experience and service hours! Our volunteer program is open to girls in high school and beyond who qualify through our volunteer application process.
For more info or to apply, click here.
Speakers Bureau (back to top)
Irvina Kanarek/Rewrite Beautiful
Irvina is the Founder and Creative Director of Rewrite Beautiful, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the way girls see beauty in themselves through the use of art, with hopes of preventing eating disorders through education. Irvina’s own experiences with an eating disorder and as a counselor in an eating disorder rehabilitation clinic drove her to start
a revolution to redefine beauty as an action, and to equip girls to use their creative skills to positively impact their communities.
Benni Cinkle/That Girl in Pink Foundation
Benni rose to Internet fame when she appeared in the music video “Friday” that went viral, and found herself the target of bullies who referred to her as “That girl in pink that can’t dance.” Benni met the criticism with humor, honesty, and understanding, and decided to use her unexpected fame for something positive. She founded the nonprofit organization,
That Girl in Pink Foundation, dedicated to the prevention of teen suicide. Benni is now an
anti-bullying advocate, the author of “That Girl in Pink’s Internet Survival Guide,” and a regular blogger for The Huffington Post.
Alli Swanson & Jessie Simonson/31 Bits Designs
Alli & Jessie are part of the 31 Bits team, a socially-minded jewelry business that empowers women in Uganda to rise above poverty. 31 Bits currently works with over 100 women in Gulu, Uganda, who handmake the jewelry from 100% recycled paper. 31 Bits also provides these women with a program that equips them with literacy education, financial and vocational training, holistic care, and strong support systems. Check out the 31 Bits collection at www.31bits.com
Andrea Kooiman/We Run Orange County's Kids
Andrea (“Coach K”) is the Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board of the nonprofit organization,
We Run Orange County’s Kids (We ROCK). Based on the idea that life is like a marathon, the mission of We ROCK is to teach middle and high school kids the important life skills of goal setting, self-reliance, discipline, and self-confidence, through the design and delivery of instructional programs focused on the proper training for, and completion of, a marathon. Andrea is an avid runner, a 23-time marathon finisher, and an active community leader and volunteer.
Carly Ketchum/Laura's House
Carly is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern who works as a therapist at
Laura’s House Counseling and Resource Center, a nonprofit domestic violence agency based in Orange County. Carly provides therapy to survivors of domestic violence as well as children who have been abused or affected by domestic violence, helping survivors heal from past trauma, increase self-esteem, and learn to have more satisfying and fulfilling relationships. Laura’s House offers a comprehensive range of services for the entire family including emergency shelter, 24-hour hotline, legal support, counseling, and community education.
Tom & Kisha Maher/Hailey's House
Tom & Kisha are the founders of Hailey’s House, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting families whose daughters are experiencing significant difficulties in their lives, such as bullying, low self-esteem, disrespect for self and authority, and academic failure. Tom & Kisha are behavior modification specialists who have been working with children and families for over ten years, and have mentored hundreds of teenagers. Hailey’s House strives to bridge the gap for families when therapy for a child isn’t enough and boot camp or boarding school is too severe.
Erin Runnion/The Joyful Child Foundation
Erin is the Founder of The Joyful Child Foundation in Memory of Samantha Runnion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and empowering kids, parents, and communities in an effort to prevent predatory crimes against children. Erin is a highly respected and nationally recognized child safety advocate, and runs safety empowerment programs for kids and teens that are fun, interactive, and empowering. For more information on her programs, please visit The Joyful Child Foundation.
Sgt. Nancy Wilkey/OC Sheriff's Department
Sgt. Nancy works in the Juvenile Services Bureau/South Investigations for the OCSD. She is
a 22-year veteran, and a parent as well. Sgt. Nancy gives parent education presentations regularly, along with her Deputy Quyen Vuong, OC's "Cyber Cop." Read about Deputy Vuong's cyber work in this 3-part series from the OC Register:
Cyber Cop Helps Keep O.C. Teens Safe
Cyber Cop Warns of Secret Teen World
Virtual Bullies Stalk Social Media Sites
Leslie Dixon/Birds & Bees Connection
Leslie is the Founder/Executive Director of the Birds & Bees Connection. Leslie is a dynamic speaker with a wealth of information to share with girls on a wide variety of topics, including
self-esteem, healthy bodies, the tween brain, and many more. Check out her wonderful courses for kids and parents at www.birdsnbeesconnection.com
Danielle Tiano/Children's Book Author
Danielle is an accomplished children's book author and the creator/writer of
The Temptation Series, the first illustrated book series of its kind to tackle the tough issues tweens/teens face with technology today. The Temptation Series tackles topics such as
cyber bullying, cell phone use and abuse, and Internet pornography. The series addresses adolescent issues such as self-image, technology addiction, communication, and relationships.
Gracie Doran/LN Patch Columnist
Gracie is a local high school freshman who writes a column for the Laguna Niguel Patch called "Days of Grace," in which she shares her experiences as a stroke survivor to help inspire
others to work hard through life's difficulties. Read Gracie's inspiring stories here:
Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4, Article 5, Article 6, Article 7, Article 8, Article 9, Article 10, Article 11, Article 12, Article 13, Article 14, Article 15, Article 16, Article 17, Article 18 (GSN), Article 19, Article 20, Article 21, Article 22, Article 23, Article 24, Article 25, Article 26, Article 27, Article 28, Article 29, Article 30 (GSN); Gracie named "Local Hero" and featured in the
Jodi Barber/Anti-Drug Advocate & Filmmaker
Jodi is a local mom committed to raising awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse since losing her 19-year-old son Jarrod to an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2010. Jodi's tireless efforts have given rise to the short documentary Overtaken, the interactive website www.OneChoiceCanDestroy.com, and many articles written by and about Jodi in the Laguna Niguel Patch, where she is a contributor and blogs about this current epidemic.
Debbie Morgan/College Guidance Consultant
Debbie is a College & Career Guidance Consultant, and served as Director of College Guidance Services for CUSD for nine years. She runs her own guidance consulting business called Simply Success & Starting Out Successfully/S.O.S. Debbie has been the recipient of numerous honors over the years including the OC Department of Education's "Outstanding Contributions to Education" award. Debbie is a frequent speaker and has been quoted in many articles, including this one from OC Family.
Sheri Fink/Children's Book Author
Sheri is the local author of the #1 best-selling book, The Little Rose and The Little Gnome. She writes books that inspire and delight children while planting seeds of self-esteem that can have lifelong benefit. Sheri will share her story and talk with the girls about authenticity and how it opens the door for their dreams to come true. Discover more about Sheri and her books at: www.TheLittleRoseBook.com
Marissa Presley/Laura's House
Marissa is a Prevention Education Specialist with Laura's House, and educates kids and teens on healthy relationships and appropriate conflict resolution skills in an effort to prevent violence before it starts. Laura's House is the only state-approved comprehensive domestic violence agency in South Orange County. Read this article on Marissa in the
OC Register. And check out the Laura’s House Prevention Website for Teens by clicking here.
Nancy DeVore/Journey Coaching & Counseling Services
Nancy is a Psychology Assistant at Journey Coaching & Counseling Services, where she specializes in Positive Psychology and Human Potential (supervised by Bruce B. Johnston, PsyD). As a Life Coach and Therapist, Nancy teaches workshops on multiple personal development topics such as "The Power of Self Esteem: A Course in Self Esteem Enhancement." She is the author of the forthcoming book, The Colorful Life: Living with Vibrancy in a Black and White World. Nancy holds a Masters of Science in Psychology, and
is an award-winning speaker with 15 years of experience teaching mentor courses and conducting corporate trainings.
Diana Olson/Etiquette Consultant
Diana is a highly credentialed Etiquette Consultant with over 20 years of experience. Her areas of expertise include: image, etiquette, manners, and civility. Her motto is "Creating a Powerful Presence through Positive Self-Discovery." Diana is based out of Los Angeles and has worked with celebrities such as Emma Roberts ("Nancy Drew"), Lisa Rinna, and Mel B. ("Dancing With the Stars"). Visit her website here.
Who We Are (back to top)
"Necessity is the mother of invention." ~ Plato
Girls Support Network, Inc. is run by a team of women who possess a strong vision and determination for empowering girls. We are supported by our Board of Directors,
Charter Members, and Volunteers, whose time and efforts make our program possible.
Joy is a Southern California native with a passion for empowering girls. A mother with a background in public relations and event planning, Joy launched her passion project,
Girls Support Network, in 2011 and has been growing the community-based program ever since. Joy is the recipient of the Ruby Award from Soroptimist International for her work with GSN, and can be found in the Laguna Niguel Patch as an occasional contributor writing about issues concerning girls. Joy is grateful to have a dedicated team of co-workers, charter members, and volunteers, all of whom make GSN possible. Joy resides in Laguna Niguel with her husband Kevin, daughter Katie, and two rambunctious Cavaliers named Harry & Phineas.
Director of Programs
Cindy is a Laguna Niguel native who graduated from Gordon College, a small liberal arts school in Wenham, MA. Her Sociology degree from Gordon fueled her desire to work with middle school girls, bringing positive motivation and awareness to this age group during their crucial years of development. Cindy's work experience includes Supervisor at Paintbox, the Children’s Program at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, and Volunteer Leader for Wyldlife, the middle school branch of Younglife. Cindy resides in Newport Beach with her husband Jeff.
Amber was born and raised in New York into a family committed to nonprofit work. As a graduate of Gordon College with a degree in Sociology, Amber is determined to use her knowledge of social issues to enlighten and empower young girls. In addition to working with children in her professional career, she volunteers for various nonprofits focused on teaching children and teens. Amber is excited to be a part of the GSN team and help middle school girls grow to make smart choices. Amber lives in San Clemente with her husband Matt.
Board of Directors
Testimonials (back to top)
~ Kathy B., GSN Parent, Laguna Niguel
"I originally signed my 6th grade daughter up for Girls Support Network (GSN) so she could stay in touch with some old friends from her elementary school. I didn’t know then that I was signing her up for an amazing experience that would provide her with information on subjects that girls her age face all the time, information that she will take with her and use for high school and college. These are subjects that I may not have thought to discuss with her, but now we have.
My daughter has made almost every monthly meeting with GSN for the last two years. She looks forward to them. The speakers they get have a way of presenting sometimes uncomfortable subject matter in a way that makes the girls at ease.
Next year I will be signing my daughter up with GSN for her 8th grade year. And when my youngest daughter starts middle school, I will enroll her in GSN also. I am grateful to GSN for helping me raise a more informed daughter."
~ Regina B., GSN Parent, Laguna Niguel
“I have two beautiful daughters. My oldest is now 15 and thriving, but when she made the transition into middle school, I was not prepared for the changes that were to come. So when it was my younger daughter’s turn, I was terrified knowing what can lie ahead. But this time, I have a team of support through Girls Support Network. GSN has great speakers that address all the topics that are in your daughter’s head but that she may not tell you about. GSN brings girls together in a safe environment, and takes great care in picking speakers who engage them in topics that are meaningful to both girls and parents. My daughter feels engaged and happy to go to the meetings because she gets to socialize with her friends from other middle schools and is interested in all the topics. Plus, these topics open the doors for parents to talk to their daughters – and an open door in middle school is a fantastic thing!
Because of Girls Support Network, I can say that my younger daughter’s transition has been a pleasant one, for both of us. Thank you GSN!”
~ Joy L., GSN Parent, Laguna Niguel
"We are so thankful to have participated in GSN for the last two years. Not only has our daughter had fun meeting new friends, GSN has given our daughter a wealth of important information and opened up some wonderful family discussions. We are looking forward to the 8th grade program where she will now be able to apply that knowledge and give back to the community."
~ Veronica N., GSN Parent, Laguna Niguel
"I'm so glad that I was a part of this awesome program! I learned so much, and all the people I met were kind and welcoming. I met many new friends, and I feel this program brings everyone closer together. GSN helps you learn about what's going on everywhere. We learned about the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol. We also learned about following your dreams and doing what makes you happy. I have gained so much knowledge and I can't wait for the 8th grade program so I can get involved and help others."
~ Kendall N., GSN Member, Laguna Niguel
"At first I wasn't sure I wanted to participate because it was new and I didn't know anything about it or who would be there. But when I went to the first meeting, I saw tons of friends from my middle school and elementary school too, plus girls I know from soccer. It was cool to be in the same room with all these girls each month. We played fun games, listened to good positive messages from speakers, and I really liked small groups with the high school volunteers and making my own pledges and also journaling. I can't wait for next year! After that I'd like to be a volunteer so I can still be a part of this awesome program."
~ Lauren P., GSN Member, Aliso Viejo
Meet Cindy & Amber,
GSN's Program Leaders!
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