Program offers girls in grades 2-5 physical fitness and self confidence

Oct. 30 2017

ACSA is honoring this year’s award recipients, and each is being profiled in EdCal leading up to the formal awards gala at the 2017 Leadership Summit in San Jose.


The Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI) is a 501c3 organization in San Jose that provides free after-school fitness and confidence-building opportunities to young girls in communities where obesity and diabetes are prevalent, who are not being exposed to organized sports or physical education classes. For its outstanding work with students, BAWSI was selected as the recipient of ACSA's 2018 Partners in Educational Excellence Award.

The BAWSI Girls program focuses on second through fifth grade girls at Title 1 eligible schools, where approximately 70 percent of students receive free and reduced-price lunch. The BAWSI Rollers program provides adaptive physical activities for girls and boys with physical, cognitive and hearing disabilities.

BAWSI was founded in 2005 by U.S. women’s soccer team stars Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy. The two joined with Marlene Bjornsrud, former general manager of the Women’s United Soccer Association’s champion San Jose Cyber Rays, as well as with a group of community and sports leaders, to create BAWSI (pronounced “bossy”). The organization is dedicated to using active play to transform the lives of vulnerable and marginalized students. To date, they have served more than 18,000 children with the help of 3,000 volunteers.

BAWSI Girls Program

Through the BAWSI Girls program, female athletes are mobilized to help transform the health and self-confidence of girls in underserved communities, improve their attitudes and beliefs about physical activity and help inspire them to believe in themselves. Students are introduced to a variety of activities including journaling and self-reflection and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

“BAWSI Girls is not just a way to build leadership skills and healthy bodies – it is a pathway from poverty,” said Devorah Duncan, principal at Dorsa Elementary School. “The BAWSI athletes are lighthouse beacons who show these daughters how to obtain a future that includes higher education and good choices. Anyone can make a difference, but it takes a team to make an impact on ending poverty.”

Since 2006, BAWSI Rollers has served students in county special education programs. Each year, rollers help participants develop hand-eye coordination, strength and a vital sense of independence. Paralympians and other well-known athletes lead the classes and provide motivation for students who participate in adapted basketball, tag, hockey and volleyball along with others. Students interact with coaches from college and high school sports teams, instilling in them a sense of what futures are possible for them.

Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative (BAWSI)

“Clearly, these folks have made a big impact in our special education classrooms, and we are extremely grateful,” said Norma Del Rio, county director of Special Education.

BAWSI Girls has had an enormous impact on students in historically underserved communities where socio-economic barriers to girls discovering their potential is often limiting. The organization removes barriers to participation such as cost, lack of encouragement or transportation issues and delivers a free and fun exercise curriculum designed to help keep children healthy and having fun. BAWSI has worked in more than 55 elementary schools to date, providing opportunities for thousands of children.

BAWSI participants, in addition to receiving services, are also active participants in their learning. They are trained to be agents of change in their own communities and participate as members of a team in a year-end service-learning project that follows the Upward Roots curriculum developed to teach leadership and empower youth-driven community service. Girls discuss topics on girls’ leadership and facilitate a girl-led, girl-driven capstone service-learning project.

ACSA is proud to honor this incredible organization that so clearly embodies the motto, “Leadership Matters.”


BAWSI will be recognized along with all the ACSA Administrators of the Year during the 2017 Leadership Summit.

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