About Programs Investing in Change Communities

Learn about GFC in your area:

resources multimedia search

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from girlsforachange.org. Make your own badge here.



Whitney H. Smith, CEO and Founder

Whitney is the visionary Founder of Girls For A Change. Her inspiration for Girls For A Change springs from nearly a decade of experience in the leadership of innovative and progressive programs for girls and women. Her experience working with girls in juvenile detention and group homes has shaped her vision for a different world for girls and women. Envisioned as a highly collaborative and community-based model, Girls for a Change evolved out of Whitney’s work as the Chair of the Girls Coalition. In this role Whitney developed a powerful collaboration of over 75 community based organizations, legislators and individuals serving girls in Santa Clara Country. She has been honored by the Commission on the Status of Women and featured as one of ’s leading change agents. She was recently selected to attend Harvard Business School’s Nonprofit Strategic Management Program and awarded a scholarship to Hewlett Packard’s Leadership Initiative Program.

Prior to joining the GFC staff full time, she was the Director of the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Advocacy (OWA). Since 1989 OWA has identified current and emerging trends and needs for women and girls, influenced the local and state legislative process and created public awareness about women’s and girl’s issues. Whitney was Program Director at Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County where she managed programs and services for 18,000 young women. A fearless social change agent and innovator, Whitney began her career in college where she initiated and developed the first Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) student support group and LGBT Faculty Allies group in the Pennsylvania State University system.

Whitney is skilled at creating strong and strategic organizations with deep community support. She shares her experience with other organizations as an active consultant in the areas of program development, nonprofit organizational development, fund development and outcomes evaluation. She is an artist and photographer. A tireless advocate for social justice and the unlimited potential of girls and women, Whitney speaks frequently to diverse audiences on social change, youth activism, and girls and women in leadership, including presentations at Simmons School of Management, The Women’s Leadership Alliance, Mills College, Arizona Foundation for Women, Women’s Fund, DeAnza College, and The Forum for Women Entrepreneurs.


Annie Yaniga, Executive Assistant to the CEO

Annie Yaniga is the Executive Assistant to Whitney Smith, CEO and Founder. Annie is responsible for CEO communications and scheduling, the management of our Santa Cruz office, our Social Media communications, website maintenance and development, grant-writing, and various other aspects of daily business. She comes to us from Chicago, Illinois where she worked as a Research Assistant at her Alma Mater, The University of Chicago.  Annie’s research for The Language Development Project supplied video data from 6 and 7 year-old children around the country pertaining to the human acquisition and development of language.  Annie has also spent time in the business world as a management trainee at McMaster-Carr Supply Company, where she acquired many of the skills that help us keep Girls For A Change running smoothly.  Annie was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, West Africa where she worked and lived in a small village with the goal of improving the lives and power of all people, but especially women and girls. Annie has a long-running passion for youth development, specifically girls’ empowerment, evidenced by her experience as a Girl Scout Counselor, mentor, tutor, and coach.  Annie currently resides in Santa Cruz with her partner Leifa and two kittens, Pumpkin and Pancake. She loves being active outdoors whenever she's not busy being a couch potato or working for the cause of girls empowerment.


Niki Pantazis, National Program Associate

As the National Program Associate, Niki is responsible for delivering Change Your World trainings to Community Action Teams in the Silicon Valley in addition to managing relationships with affiliates nation-wide.  She also assists in Girl Action Team management, volunteer trainings, as well as cultivating and maintaining relationships with community partners.

While in college earning her B.A. in Community Studies with a focus on Youth Studies from UC Santa Cruz, Niki worked and volunteered for several different social justice and community development organizations. As part of an independent study project she was part of a team of students that created an after school media education program supported by the Santa Cruz County Board of Education for at risk and homeless youth entitled MS3.  She was also an intern at the Homeless Garden Project (HGP) where she taught youth about organic and sustainable farming and the benefits of healthy eating.  She mentored for and was the Mentor Coordinator for the Youth Empowering Youth program that connected college students with local high school students to create social documentaries about issues in their communities.

Working in the social justice field and with a youth focused organization is something Niki is extremely passionate about.  She wants girls to develop a sense of self based on their intelligence, abilities, and own desired criteria rather than ones created for them by society. She finds happiness in running, playing roller derby, fire dancing and traveling. Niki feels extremely privileged to be a part of GFC and in the company of such vibrant, accomplished and passionate women and girls."

Ashley Smith, Silicon Valley Program Director

Ashley started as a volunteer for Girls For A Change within the first few years of the organizations inception.  She joined the GFC staff as a part-time employee in 2005 and began working full time as the Operations and Program Assistant in May of 2006 and is now working as the Silicon Valley Program Director. Ashley infuses a strong sense of social justice and creativity to her work at GFC because of her background as an artist and activist. Ashley moved from Pennsylvania to California in 1999. She graduated from the California College of the Arts and Crafts in 2004 with an B.F.A. in Sculpture. Previously working with collaborative partner, she has worked on many pieces and projects around taking action for social change. The worked ranged from gallery installation to performance art.

One of the projects called “Soup Cart” was performed on the biggest shopping day of the year, the day after Thanksgiving, known as “Black Friday." The atmosphere includes long lines to enter stores and heavy traffic. With a steel, three -wheeled, hand-constructed soup cart Ashley and her collaborative art partner served lunch to anyone that wanted to eat - from the homeless to big holiday spenders in fur coats. They served a hearty home-made Persian soup in hand made ceramic bowls that were given away with the soup.  With a goal to give on a day many people were spending.  To bring happiness through generosity that wasn’t bought over the counter.  In turn, the artists, were gifted by the people they encountered with smiles, tears of joy, love, human connection, stories and immeasurable thanks.

Her experience with GFC has infused her artwork with a rich message of social commentary and matters of the human condition.  Now working as a solo artist, Ashley draws her inspiration from her experience working with the young women of GFC, travels to other countries, and finding the extraordinary within the “ordinary”.


Meghan Arrigo, Western Region Program Director

Meghan is the Western Regional Program Director.  She is located in Phoenix, AZ. Meghan is overseeing the management of more than 40 Girl Action Teams, 80 Girl Action Team Coaches, and collaborating with more than  50 schools and organizations throughout Arizona and the Bay Area in California.

Prior to moving to Phoenix, Meghan lived in Grand Rapids, MI. She worked as the Marketing Coordinator for Bethany Christian Services, the largest national adoption and family services agency in the United States. She was responsible for consulting with over 70 branch offices on marketing projects, goals, and execution. She also volunteered as an after-hours pregnancy counselor at Bethany. She consulted young women facing untimely pregnancies, answered questions about their options, and connection them to resources in their communities. Meghan was also a proud volunteer and mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters. She spent time meeting with her little sister, working on self-esteem, family matters, school, and having fun.

Prior to working in Grand Rapids, Meghan worked at the Lansing Housing Commission, Section 8 Department. She worked with low-income housing resident, helping program participants secure housing and understand federal housing rules and regulations. In 2003, Meghan traveled to India where she spent time studying in New Delhi at Lady Irwin College. Upon completing her studies, she participated in an internship with INHERE, a nongovernmental organization working in the foothills of the Himalayas. She spent her days working and studying the women’s self-help groups, focusing on income generation and micro-loan programs. Meghan graduated from James Madison College, a public policy college at Michigan State University. She has a degree in International Relations and Social Policy. During her years in college, Meghan also worked as an Urban Program Coordinator for the Boy Scouts of America. She coordinated summer scouting programs for boys living in economically and socially depressed areas of the city.


Lori Fitzmaurice, Chief Development Officer

Lori Fitzmaurice is the Chief Development Officer, responsible for development and oversight of all fundraising activities within the organization.  Lori brings over 20 years of management and development experience to her role.  Most recently the Director of Development at Keys School, a growing independent school in Palo Alto, Lori also served as Director of Fundraising Events for the San Francisco Zoological Society, and Director of Development for The Center for Grieving Children, the first children’s grief support program on the East Coast.  As a Senior Director at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. she honed her project management skills across myriad disciplines, including marketing, strategic planning, customer service, and information systems. While at Schwab, she also managed the Boston and Lexington, Massachusetts offices as Vice President and Branch Manager.  Also an entrepreneur, Lori created and managed her own yacht refinishing business in Florida and Maine.  Raised in California, Lori has spent many years living along the East Coast, and now is based in Santa Cruz, California.  She is proud mom to Caitlin Rose, and is an active sprint triathlete, avid writer, philanthropist, and loves to travel, cook, and sing.  She is passionate about the empowerment of our children, most notably girls, and is honored to be a part of Girls For A Change.


Elise DeYoung, National Operations Director

As the National Operations Director, Elise manages the financial, accounting, human resources, and facilities activities for GFC. She is very excited to put her extensive professional business experience from the corporate world to work supporting the Program and Development staff Girl participants, volunteers and donors. In her corporate life, Elise was the Vice President of Finance and Administration for an international water purification company and the General Manager for a Palo Alto based water service company. Elise also brings two unique academic perspectives to GFC. She has recently been appointed to the position of Board Member for the Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Education. Additionally, Elise worked for 3 years as a full-time substitute teacher for Santa Clara Unified School District with primary focus in middle school and special education classrooms. Her hands-on experience as a classroom teacher helped Elise recognize her true passion – youth development.

Elise has been married to her husband for 23 years and is the proud mother of two teenage sons, ages 15 and 17. While home full-time during her sons' elementary school years, Elise was an active community volunteer and coordinator. She was a member of the Santa Clara Las Madres group, Little League coach and manager, elementary school volleyball coach, Cub Scout Leader, and active participant in the Santa Clara Historical Home Tour program. Especially focused on enhancing the public school opportunities in her home school district, Elise has served continuously on both unit and council level PTA organizations as President, Vice President, Treasurer, Auditor, and Parliamentarian. She has twice been recognized as an outstanding school volunteer during the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) Public School Week Awards (1997 and 2005) and received the SCUSD Board of Trustees Certificate of Recognition in 2004. Community involvement continues to be a high priority for Elise which she pursues through her role as Popcorn Kernel (popcorn sales fundraiser leader) for the Pioneer District of the Santa Clara County Council of the Boy Scouts, Treasurer for the Santa Clara High School PTSA and Auditor for Santa Clara Unified School District Council PTA.

Elise earned her Bachelor of Science and Commerce degree in Marketing and her Masters in Business Administration with emphasis in Finance and Management from Santa Clara University.


National Board

The following are current members of the Girls For A Change Board of Directors. The Board meets every other month from 4:30-6:30 p.m..The Board consists of adult and girl members. Girl members have voting power on the board and 2 girls must be present for quorum.

Deborah Ludewig
Board Chair
DJL Corporate Law

Anita Manwani
Board Secretary
Founder and CEO, Carobar Business Solutions

Michelle Swenson
Board Treasurer
Chief Marketing Officer, Corefino Inc.

Onagh Ash
CEO, Exigen Elite

Priyanka B.
Girl Member

Caroline Burruss
Chief Marketer, Madison House Presents

Niko Everett
President, Career College of California

Jennifer G.
Girl Member

Natasha Gonzalez
GFC Alumna

Phyllis Liu
Northwest Venture Partners, Coach

Katherine N.
Girl Member

Linda Shelby
SVP, Complex Director, Merrill Lynch

Aline S.
Girl Member

Whitney Smith
Founder and CEO, Girls For A Change

Amiti U.
Girl Member

Morgan Wiley
Relationship Manager and Facilitator, Peak Teams Inc., Coach

Donate Now


newslettersignup newsletter archive


social change blogs

GFC.org blog

Girls Speak!




Donate Now GFC RSS Feed