Girls in Progress

NICOLE SNELL :: CEO + international speaker

Nicole purchased Girls Fight Back in 2020 because of her passion for empowering women, advocating for women’s rights and her desire to make the world a safer place for people of all gender identities. She is dedicated to bringing the message of living a fearless life and combating violence to millions of people around the world. Nicole received a full scholarship to Cal State Long Beach as a President’s Scholar, and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Speech Communication.  Her self-defense training includes IMPACT LA  & IMPACT Global (where she is also a lead instructor), Defense Against the Armed Assailant training, FAST defense & the GFB Speaker Academy.

Nicole is an NACP Credentialed Advocate and currently sits on the board of IMPACT Personal Safety.  She was recently featured in the November 2021 issue of Women’s Health Magazine and was a guest on the Nike Trained Podcast. Nicole won a People’s Voice Webby Award in May 2020 for her feature in the self-defense instructional video by Tastemade Travel in collaboration with IMPACT Personal Safety and she is the creator of the series Outdoor Defense, an online series that offers self-defense skills for enjoying the outdoors.  She is a collaborative partner with Difference Makers (10 Strong) and has traveled the world speaking and facilitating workshops at military installations, colleges, high schools, Fortune 500 Companies, corporations, outdoor women’s retreats, hiking organizations and private groups.  In 2017 she volunteered in Fiji to teach self-defense to the women and girls in local villages.  On her spare time, Nicole is incredibly active and loves to hike, camp, horseback ride, play sports, hit the gym and travel the world; often solo. She is also an active volunteer in her community. For more information, visit Nicole here. (Photo by Deborah Hart)


ERIN WEED :: founder

Erin founded GFB in 2001 at the age of 23 in response to the murder of Shannon, who was her close friend and sorority sister. Erin has won many awards for her work in women’s empowerment and social entrepreneurship. She was a columnist for CosmoGirl and is the author of Girls Fight Back! The College Girl’s Guide to Protecting Herself (now available in its 3rd edition). She is the creator of the GFB seminar seen by over a million women, and also the GFB Speaker Academy.


SHANNON MCNAMARA :: inspiration

Shannon was murdered on June 12, 2001 just a few days shy of her 22nd birthday. While the world lost an incredible human being that day, heaven gained one hell of an angel. Shannon’s story has inspired over one million women to become their own best defenders, and to live the badass life each of us were intended. And for that, we are so grateful.

GINA POLESETSKY :: sister – friend of GFB

Gina Kirkland Polesetsky graduated from Amarillo College and West Texas A&M University with an A.A. and a B.A.. She worked as an educator and an event planner before opening Kirkland Productions, Inc., a college entertainment/speakers agency, in 2000. She served as a Facilitator for the AAG (Associate Advisory Group) for NACA (The National Association for Campus Activities) and was awarded Agent of the Year in 2014 by NACA South and in the past by both the NACA West and Central regions. In 2007, she opened her second company, KP Comedy, and, in 2013, she channeled her lifelong passion for Women’s Issues into the purchase of her third company, Girls Fight Back, before selling it to Nicole Snell in 2020. Gina is currently working as an Associate MFT Therapist with adults, children, families, and couples, providing chaplain work to prisoners, and volunteering with elementary school aged children for Reading Partners Los Angeles. She is a NOVA certified Victim Advocate, has worked in partnership with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office of the Department of the Navy (DON SAPRO) on issues of sexual assault prevention and bystander behavior, and is a graduate of the Gavin de Becker Advanced Threat Assessment and Management Academy, IMPACT Los Angeles and FAST Defense.


BREE SWARTZ :: sister – friend of GFB

Bree is a graduate of Purdue University, where she studied Mass Communication and Theatre, was an ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts and a Co-Captain for the Purdue Golduster Dance Team. Her self-defense training includes IMPACT Chicago, FAST Defense, adrenal stress confrontations and the GFB Speaker Academy.  She is also a Certified Victim Advocate. Bree is an actress in NYC when not on the road with GFB, where she is an active member in The Community, a nonprofit theater group founded by fellow William Esper Studio graduates. Bree has coordinated and lead audition workshops for the organization to create a place for growing actors to work on their craft. During her time in Chicago, where she first became a GFB speaker, Bree mentored a young theater group in the suburbs of Chicago through classes and talks on the importance of being an artist. More recently, Bree helped coordinate an incredibly successful meditation workshop for the Clairvision School, which is a dynamic, interactive two-day workshop that unfolds a systematic method for achieving a state of inner stillness, focus and clarity of purpose. Although Bree is currently awaiting her approval for Big Sister, she finds time to work with local youth through her work with Puppetonia at Symposium Bookstore, an inner-active, educational children’s show. She gets her funny-on and hones her public speaking skills through improv comedy classes at Upright Citizen Brigade in NYC. Bree finds time to “play” by spending time with friends, family, seeing shows, writing, dancing, reading and taking classes at the nonprofit Yoga to the People.

Morgan-CrouchMORGAN CROUCH :: sister – friend of GFB

Morgan Crouch graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned a B.A. in Art History with an emphasis in gender & critical race. Morgan studied improv and comedic writing at The Second City Training Center and iO Chicago. She is a graduate of the GFB Speaker Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense.

Beth-Townsend-SmithBETH TOWNSEND-SMITH :: sister – friend of GFB

Beth studied Psychology with Certification in Child and Family Studies at Roosevelt University and is also a graduate of The Adler School of Professional Psychology’s Art Therapy program. She has worked with special needs children, at-risk teens, and parent education groups across the Chicago area. When not out promoting GFB, she also teaches art and science. Beth is a Graduate of the GFB Speaker Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense.

Leah-BonnemaLEAH BONNEMA :: sister – friend of GFB

Leah majored in Cultural Studies at McGill University and wrote her Honor’s Thesis in Film and Women’s Studies. Huffington Post named her one of their Favorite Female Comedians and College Candy listed in her as one of the Top Ten Female Comics. She is regular on VH1’s 100 Greatest Series and has toured for the troops in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Leah is a graduate of the GFB Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense.