Friday, May 29, 2009

Girls Academie hopes to go global

Local education group plans to expand

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley resident Lisbeth Giglio is the founder of Girls Academie. Photo by David N. Seelig

About 30 local girls and their families spent the day last Saturday learning how to fly at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey. While the weather prevented them from actually taking off, they will be in the air this June as part of Girls Academie, an organization dedicated to building camaraderie and character among young women.

"Girls Academie is about women helping women and girls helping girls," said founder Lisbeth Giglio of Sun Valley.

Giglio is a licensed family-child therapist with practices in Washington, California and Idaho. But with the birth of her daughter, Gabriella, Giglio said she was inspired to do more.

"She was 4 days old and we were in the mother-daughter zone, and I was thinking I have to give you the world. How am I going to give you the world?" Giglio said.

Her idea was Girls Academie, a kind of sorority with chapters in various cities. So far, chapters exist in Sun Valley, San Francisco and Seattle.

Every month, each chapter does an "extraordinary" event. The events vary but often involve the arts, science or nature.

The Sun Valley Chapter began with high tea and etiquette lessons at Sun Valley Lodge. The Seattle Chapter took a tour of world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly's studio.

Each "extraordinary" event has a charity component through which the girls give back to an organization or an individual. This stewardship is meant to enable the girls to "earn" their experience and learn the value of giving back, Giglio said

While anyone can attend the individual events for a small fee, girls can also become charter members for an annual fee. Membership includes monthly "extraordinary" events as well as an unlimited number of internships, summer foreign exchange programs, philanthropic events, social gatherings and guidance counseling.

"Our whole philosophy is you can be whatever you want to be and go wherever you want to go," Giglio said. "Want to be a fashion designer in Paris? We'll line up a home-stay and internship for you."

Giglio calls it a "modernized Girl Scouts."

The charters include girls ages 6 to 18. The older girls serve as junior directors who recruit other girls and mentor the younger ones.

Giglio said Girls Academie is particularly aimed at pushing young women in the right direction.

"It's reaching out to all girls, but especially those with trouble," she said. "It gives them a place to look for the good in everything. To tell them they don't have to be the bad girl to get attention or to function."

This fall, Giglio plans to launch five new chapters in California, in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Laguna Nigel and San Diego. She also has plans to start groups in Washington, D.C., Paris, Rome and Brisbane, Australia, by spring 2010.

Giglio said she hopes to have as many as 100 girls in each chapter within the next two years and a charter in each major city within 10 years.

In June, the Sun Valley girls will finally take their flying lesson. Families are welcome, particularly fathers or male role models, as part of the chapter's quarterly daddy-daughter days. In July, plans include a rafting trip on the Salmon River, and in August kayaking and camping at Redfish Lake south of Stanley. In September, girls can attend an Italian cooking class with Cristina Ceccatelli Cook of Cristina's restaurant in Ketchum.

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