On Jan. 16, City of Los Angeles leaders honored California State University, Northridge lecturer Francisca Castillo with the Impact-Makers to Watch Award, for her leadership in the Girls Play Los Angeles (GPLA) program.
The program encourages young girls in underserved communities to engage in healthy lifestyles, while making friends, building self-esteem and having fun through sports-related activities. Its primary goal is to counter the belief that family gender roles — in terms of breadwinning and earning income — should be prioritized by male family members first. The program is subsidized so that all girls can participate, regardless of economic or social status.
The Impact-Makers to Watch Award, presented at LA City Hall, is given to city staff doing foundational work to make a positive impact in the Greater Los Angeles area — and who will continue to do so throughout the year, with significant results. The award was sponsored by Stratiscope, a local consulting firm in diversity and civic engagement.
As the city’s Director of Gender Equity Affairs, Castillo supervises all special events for that department, as well as programs, staff and trainings related to girls’ physical activities and sports leagues throughout LA. Since Castillo started in that role in 2017, the Girls Play Los Angeles (GPLA) program has tripled in participation, from 6,000 to 18,000 girls in two years, according to city officials.
“It was a tremendous honor to be awarded for my work,” Castillo said. “When I was a young girl living in South Los Angeles, participating in sports and fitness kept me out of trouble and off the streets. Sports taught me discipline and gave me a sense of belonging. Being from Central American decent, it was my experience that boys are more likely to participate in sports than girls. When I was offered the Director of Gender Equity Affairs position, I knew it was my calling. Every girl, regardless of ethnicity, culture or socioeconomic status, should be provided the opportunity like I once had, to learn and grow through the power of sport.”
When Castillo is not working with the GPLA program, she is teaching part-time at CSUN in the Department of Recreation and Tourism Management.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to help former students [from CSUN] land internships and job positions,” Castillo said. “I am able to call former students colleagues. I am glad that I am able to help students prepare for the real world through my positions at CSUN and LA City.”