Girls Leadership Institute Prepares to Use Livingston to Launch Program in New Jersey

Co-Founder of Girls Leadership Institute, Simone Marean Credits: Jessica Marrone Parkes

LIVINGSTON, NJ – Moms (and a few dads) from Livingston and the surrounding communities filled the auditorium of Mt. Pleasant Middle School on Tuesday night for the Resilient Girls workshop hosted by the Girls Leadership Institute (GLI) of New Jersey.

Already located in several places around the country, GLI has recently expanded to include New Jersey and has partnered with Livingston to be its first host study early this winter.

GLI is a national educational not-for-profit that teaches girls to understand who they are, what they believe, amd how to express it. It also empowers them to make changes to the world.

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“What I like about tonight's talk and what makes me excited about the programs is that they provide concrete, actionable tools for helping girls navigate these social and academic pitfalls,” said Sara Barbato, a local mother of two girls. “They really help. Plus the programs sound genuinely fun.”

Co-Founder and executive director of GLI, Simone Marean, took the audience on a journey through the minds of young girls in society and the stresses that they face. She started with her own story and explained how she did well in school and was “good at checking off boxes” for her resume. 

By the time she reached a Master’s level of education, Marean realized that she was missing a skill set. “I was going through that mid 20’s ‘what am I going to do with my life’ sort of thing. I was good at achieving in a certain kind of way that parents related to… (but) I sort of lost touch with this other skill set…a leadership skill set of knowing what it is that I wanted, how to argue for what I want, how to disagree with people--I didn’t really identify as a leader myself, nor did I aspire to be a leader.”

Shortly after, Marean delved into this new self-interest she started exploring the issues that young girls were facing. She told the audience that once she had a “sense of agency” and started to learn how to make changes in her world she never looked back.

Marean then started identifying the stresses that young girls feel and what parents could do about them. She outlined three main pressures: early sexualization, body image and relationships; and then three topic solutions: teaching about emotional intelligence, knowing personal responsibility and teaching conflict management.

“I first heard of Girls Leadership Institute in some of the books I read when my daughter hit some ‘girl drama’ in her classroom in 1st and 2nd grade,” said Barbato. “What they’ve found in their research and what they cover in their programs are exactly the challenges we see in our families and schools every day. I saw a lot of heads nodding tonight with almost everything Simone Marean said. It all resonates; even for the girls that look successful and popular, these challenges are real.”

Marean’s two-hour seminar ended with a question and answer session and a buzz that zinged from the auditorium to the parking lot.

“As a presenter, she (Simone Marean) was great and very dynamic. I would love to get it in front of more teachers because I don’t think some of our community realizes that our teachers are inadvertently sending these ‘good girl’ messages to the girls,” said Hayley Hirschmann, a clinical psychologist and mother of two girls.

“I hope GLI will continue to expand in New Jersey and bring their teachings to more communities in our area,” added Barbato.

Marean Simone co-founded GLI 10 years ago and has taught nationally and internationally. She received her master’s degree in Educational Theater from NYU and has taught at a variety of New York City Schools. She currently sits on the board of directors of the Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland, California. Marean grew up in the North Shore of Boston and now lives in Berkley California with her husband and two-year-old son.

The Livingston Board of Education will be releasing information this fall on the GLI host study taking place this winter. For more information about GLI visit

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