About Us

In 2005, moms Mary Ellen Young and Cathy Fisher regularly witnessed relational aggression and the negative images and messages bombarding their daughters. They recognized the need for an organization to help empower young girls, and in response founded Helping Girls Navigate Adolescence (HGNA) to help girls develop the skills they need to thrive amid the inherent challenges of their pre-adolescent years.

Since its inception, the organization has grown tremendously in both scope and focus. In 2017, HGNA partnered with local moms to create new programs for boys, and officially became Navigate Adolescence in 2018. All programs for kids are designed to align with and support the State of Illinois Board of Education Social/Emotional Learning Standards.


"Girls aren't the only ones who benefit greatly from the support of a caring community as they navigate the challenges of adolescence. Navigate Adolescence is excited to expand HGNA's educational and skill-building programs, events, and resources to serve all kids and their parents."

Founded in Downers Grove, Ill., the organization initially delivered workshops in DuPage County, expanding to share the workshop curricula with learning communities in Cook and Kane Counties in 2012.

Each program or speaker hosted by Navigate Adolescence comes to you as a result of the passion and effort of our board members and many volunteers.

Navigate Adolescence Board

  • Sandra McDonnell, Executive Director
  • Todd Adams, Director
  • Christine Amstadt, Director
  • Ann Carlson, Director
  • Carla Giannelli, Director
  • Andrea Knudsen, Director
  • Colleen Loftus, Director
  • Jason Lynde, Director
  • Leslie Murphy, Director
  • Laura Palmer, Director
  • Mary Ellen Young, President and Co-founder

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