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A member of Girl Talk's Board of Directors weighs in on the LeaderU experience. underage drinking, woman leadership, women leadership

The powerful ripple effect of layered leadership is a large part of what has ensured the success of Girl Talk, an Atlanta-based non-profit, throughout its soon-to-be twelve year history. What started as a way for Founder, Haley Kilpatrick, to spare her younger sister from the terror that middle school can often become has now blossomed into a range of programming beyond the mentoring that takes place at local Chapter meetings each week. Clear evidence of the transformation could be found at the organization’s first-ever LeaderU Leadership Summit in our nation’s capitol July 16th through 18th.

One hundred high school-aged young women descended on the beautiful and historic campus of American University for a transformation of their own. The participants ranged from Girl Talk alumni and Chapter Leaders, to others who were brand new to Girl Talk activities, all seeking the wisdom of a phenomenal line up of notable speakers that they could, in turn, pass on to the women and girls of their respective communities. What they found was much more than a bonding experience and a growth opportunity. They found a challenge to exude kind confidence, to start first with understanding, and to delve selflessly into the story of others. Without a doubt, the challenge was met with optimism and determination by each young lady there.

Because they are already a primary influence on their peer group, particularly those who are younger among them, these lessons on making the right decision are especially timely for high school girls. Whether the decision is to ignore gossip, to fearlessly live out their dreams, or not drink underage, LeaderU equipped attendees with the inspiration to take a stand, and the practical tools to do so, even if standing alone. The Girl Talk staff modeled these virtues themselves as they led a series of breakout sessions which covered such topics as “Pursuing Your Passion,” “Tackling Time Management,” and “Preparing for Professionalism.”

Leading by example seemed the unofficial theme of the experience, which was capped off by a day on Capitol Hill engaging with female figure heads who shared their trials and triumphs, imparting what they learned along the way. The goal is, of course, that the first class of LeaderU graduates and every class to follow will emulate these remarkable visionaries and remain a primary influence on their peer group, even as they grow, for the better. The aim is that they become mothers, sisters, friends, and employees, indeed simply women, who accept change as easily as they accept their bodies and exercise their voices as often as they exercise gratitude. The hope is that they left with a sense of empowerment that will manifest in their schools and all facets of their lives when they return home.

It will certainly be counted as one of the many successes of the program for these young women to launch new Girl Talk Chapters or improve the sustainability of their current Chapters, but beyond that, Girl Talk will certainly stay with them in each act of leadership, each call to action, and each decision to choose what is right that follows as a result of LeaderU. The ripple effect has been set in motion and there is no stopping it, or these motivated and powerful leaders. 

Did you miss out on this experience? Check out the highlights from the leadership summit here:

Heather is a juris doctor, with a law degree from John Marshall Law School. Her undergraduate credentials from Clayton State University include psychology, women's studies, theater, and philosophy. Heather holds professional leaderships positions with the American Bar Association and the State Bar of Georgia, and serves as the current Chair of City Blub of Buckhead's Young Executive Society. She is also the Technology Chair on the Board of Directors of Girl Talk, a curriculum-based non-profit mentoring program from teenaged girls. 

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility or any Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility member.*