KSU alum, Girl Talk founder talks about the drama of middle school Haley Kilpatrick, who just…
Georgia (Apr 20, 2012) —
KSU alum, Girl Talk founder talks about the drama of middle school
Haley Kilpatrick, who just released her first book, “The Drama Years,” leads discussion on solutions for issues tweens and young teenagers face today
A few years before she enrolled at Kennesaw State University, Haley Kilpatrick founded a mentoring program for middle school girls at her school in Albany, Ga. Today, Girl Talk is an acclaimed nonprofit that involves more than 35,000 girls in 43 states and six countries.
As Kilpatrick, who graduated from Kennesaw State in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, celebrates the 10th anniversary of Girl Talk, she is also making her debut as a published author. Her first book, “The Drama Years: Real Girls Talk about Surviving Middle School –– Bullies, Brands, Body Image, and More,” was published by Simon & Schuster’sFree Press in early April to rave reviews. She kicked off her national book tour on NBC’s Today show on April 2 and came to her alma mater later in the month for a book signing and a lively discussion of issues affecting tween and teenage girls.
“I’m a KSU grad, a very proud KSU graduate,” Kilpatrick, who turns 26 on April 26, told a packed audience of tween and teenage girls and their moms at the KSU Center.
Kilpatrick is the executive director of Girl Talk, a program in which high school girls mentor middle school girls through the triumphs and trials of the early teenage years. Girl Talk provides local chapters with a detailed curriculum for weekly discussions on relevant topics, including self-respect, how to deal with mean girls, the importance of being kind, meeting guys and getting along with parents. The goal is to help young teenagers build self-esteem.
During the one-and-a half-hour discussion, which featured a panel of high school and middle school girls who shared their experiences, Kilpatrick talked about the issues she faced herself as a middle school student in south Georgia –– and the issues middle school girls face today, which are exacerbated by digital tools such as Facebook, texting and Skype. Kilpatrick said middle school was tough for her and admitted that many times she ate lunch in the bathroom to avoid the drama of where to sit in the school cafeteria. “The cafeteria for me was a social minefield,” she said.
“I was convinced something was wrong with me,” Kilpatrick added. “Those three years were really tough. It was so hard. … The drama, drama, drama was just too much.”
Kilpatrick, the oldest of three kids, realized she was not alone. She decided she didn’t want to be a victim of middle school and also wanted to help her younger sister as she started middle school. “It was important to me to be part of the solution,” she said. “We started Girl Talk (at my school) in 2002.”
Kilpatrick said the idea for Girl Talk started at an IHOP restaurant and she encouraged the girls in the audience to make a difference. “You’re never too young to make a difference,” she said. “It all starts with a simple dream. It started at IHOP. It didn’t cost anything but time. We are celebrating 10 years this year.”
In her new book, Kilpatrick talks at length about the issues middle school girls face and offers solutions. The anecdote-rich book is based on in-depth, one-on-one interviews with more than 50 tweens, teens and adults from across the U.S. While saying she is not a psychologist or an academic, Kilpatrick makes it clear that her insights are based on input from the real experts who are in the trenches every day. The title of the book came about, she said, because “drama dominates middle school.”
Kilpatrick stated that bullying –– physical, emotional and cyberbullying –– was probably the most talked-about subject. “Instead of cyberbullying we are now calling it digital abuse, textual harassment,” she said. Other top issues were body image and “materialistic madness,” or “having the right things.” “They don’t want these things to stand out,” she said. “They wanted them to blend in so they are not the subject of ridicule.”
The Kennesaw State alum offers solutions for these problems: find an” adopted” older sister that the middle school girl can look up to; spend time on an anchor activity outside school that she enjoys and finds fulfilling; and engage in volunteering. In her book, she calls these the “three takeaways to downplay the drama.”
“These are also the three things I emphasize throughout this book,” Kilpatrick writes in the book. “Having these in place in a middle schooler’s life will not only help her keep her mind off the drama, but they’ll serve as a base where she can take refuge when things get tough.”
Though Kilpatrick first enrolled at KSU as a traditional student, she had to switch to evening classes to accommodate the growing demands of Girl Talk. In these classes, she met parents who were going through the “drama years” with their kids and that provided valuable input for her work at Girl Talk. She describes those years at Kennesaw State as “the most magical three years.”
Kilpatrick’s book was inspired by her desire to create a handbook for adults because she kept getting questions from parents and others about the issues middle school girls face. She wanted to help mothers break the mean cycle.
“This is not a helpless time in their lives. Do not ignore these years,” Kilpatrick reassured the audience. “It does get better.”
Aixa M. Pascual
For more information on Girl Talk and “The Drama Years,” please go to http://desiretoinspire.org/
For photos of Kilpatrick’s event at KSU, please go to facebook http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.393527614001671.91272.309558925731874&type=3&l=e0b0cc6fc4
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.