n 2010, Blair moved to Chicago. Soon after starting a position in development at a refugee resettlement agency, Blair began tutoring a girl whose story, challenges, and determination inspired what would become GirlForward. Blair has a B.S. in Communication from the University of Miami and a Professional Certificate in Nonprofit Management from North Park University’s Axelson Center. Blair has been featured on CNN Heroes, named as one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 in Education and Crain's Chicago Business 20 in their 20s, and honored by the Chicago Foundation for Women Impact Awards and YWomen Leadership Awards. When Blair is not at GirlForward HQ, she can be found at the spin class with the loudest music, in the park with her dog, or checking out Chicago's newest food offerings.
Founder & Executive Director
Ashley received her undergraduate degree from Xavier University, where she concentrated on social work and peace studies, before receiving her master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago. During her undergraduate studies, Ashley studied abroad in Ghana, where she collaboratively provided street education with girls engaged in migrant labor work. Ashley’s work and studies have primarily been focused on inequalities based on gender and sexuality, empowering women and girls and advocating for their rights. In her free time, Ashley enjoys singing show tunes, dancing, and exploring all that Chicago has to offer.
Parni is originally from Gothenburg, Sweden and moved to the suburbs of Milwaukee with her family in 2005. She received her B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in International Affairs and a Certificate in European Studies from the University of Wisconsin - Madison (go Badgers!). In college, she was admitted to the Center for Academic Excellence where she experienced first-hand how invaluable enriching programming and an inclusive community can be for strengthening a person's future. Throughout this experience, Parni discovered that identity is an intersection of many things: She is Iranian, but also Swedish and American. She is Muslim, and a woman. She does not cover herself, but she still has faith. Her passion for empowering vulnerable groups comes from her background of being a first-generation immigrant and as the daughter of a refugee and immigrants. She loves hot yoga, watching corny TV shows, eating cheese curds, and spending time with her family and friends.
Emily is originally from Kentucky and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in Advocacy and Social Change in 2017. She started volunteering at GirlForward in 2015 and fell in love with the community. In Emily's free time she is always practicing her latte art, baking, and listening to podcasts!