Haley Rothbart spreads leadership and empowerment with Like A Girl club

Abby Shewmaker

It was the third trimester of eighth grade at Hall Middle School in Corte Madera. Groans echoed through classrooms as final projects were introduced. But when the end-of-year social justice project was assigned, Haley Rothbart, Olivia Letts, Megan Roy and Casey Braff were inspired to create an organization that would change their lives forever.

They started the Learn, Lead, Live Like A Girl nonprofit organization as a school project, but today it has grown to be so much more; they give presentations at elementary schools about body positivity and provide free workout classes for young girls at Athleta, among other activities.

Now sophomores, Rothbart, Letts, Roy and Braff have expanded the nonprofit into a club at Redwood. 

“It was scary,” Rothbart said. “We were freshmen, and we didn’t know anybody who would want to join the club, but once we got past that, it was a really cool experience because we were going to become a part of the school in a way.”

With this club, Rothbart hopes to empower female students at Redwood and put the ideas of their organization in the heads of people in this community. 

The idea to create Like a Girl, however, seemed inevitable, according to Letts. 

“We were all super passionate about empowering and educating women and young girls, so we decided we had to do something,” Letts said.

Participants eagerly head into Athleta for their free workout class hosted by the Like a Girl club. Photo courtesy of Haley Rothbart.

The Like A Girl organization has done substantial work over the past two years, raising over $1,600 to send girls to school in Somalia, which equates to sending two girls to school for about two and a half years. This year, they plan on adopting a family, meaning that they will donate goods to a family in need. 

“We’re hoping to be assigned to a single mother, seeing as how that would align with the mantra of our club,” Rothbart said. 

The group also gave talks at Neil Cummins and Cove elementary schools to fifth-grade girls about body positivity and the importance of staying active. 

Additionally, Rothbart worked with Athleta community coordinator Stephanie Phelan to plan and set up an exercise class in the Corte Madera store. 

“What I love so much about Haley and her community of girls and women is that they recognize the importance of not just moving the body, but also accepting and honoring it. It’s a bigger piece than just exercise,” Phelan said.

According to a 2011 study conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 40 to 60 percent of girls begin feeling concerned about their weight or about becoming overweight by the age of six. If unaddressed, this issue can endure throughout their lives. In order to combat this issue, Rothbart knew that Like A Girl had to act. 

“We teamed up with Athleta and did a free workout class, three different ones throughout the year for young girls,” Rothbart said. “These are proven to help with self-empowerment and body image in young girls, and we believe everyone should have access to that.” 

Not only was hosting the exercise classes at Athleta a great way to reach out to the community, but it also served to fortify and validate the messages that Like a Girl actively tries to spread.

“Having workout classes at Athleta was a really big deal for us because it’s amazing to have the support of a well-known company that shares our mission and ideas,” Letts said.

The girls made the classes fun and enjoyable for young girls by incorporating themes and positive messages into the workouts. Because the class was taught by teens, young girls participating in the class felt free to be themselves. 

“I think they were really inspired to be active and see themselves in a more positive light,” Rothbart said.

Photo courtesy of Haley Rothbart. Girls aged 6-14 gathered at Athleta for a free exercise class hosted by the Like a Girl club.

With these free workout classes, Rothbart and Letts immediately saw the effects that they had on their community. 

“I’ve had a lot of people come up to us and say ‘Your work is really important’ and that it’s helping these young girls,” Rothbart said. “To have someone their own age teaching the class is different than when it’s coming from a school,  PE teacher or someone older.”

Rothbart also encourages people to use the messages that Like A Girl advocates for such as body positivity and self-empowerment so that they can implement them in their own communities.

 “Just be mindful of different things about how you perceive yourself and others. It always helps to talk out loud with other people as well,” Rothbart said. “Anything helps [because] getting involved as much as you can is important.”