Middle schoolers fill the theater. Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker greets students. And leaders from national organizations take turns to speak.
It's a scene senior Courtney Kissack could not have imagined when she created a Girl Talk chapter on campus last year.
"The whole reason that I started this was to just open the lines of communication between Middle School girls and Upper School mentors, and that's still the foundation of what we do. But Girl Talk at HIES has become so much bigger than I ever thought it could be," Courtney says. "I owe everything I've been able to accomplish through Girl Talk to Kara Friedman, Middle School counselor, as well as the other Girl Talk chapter leaders, Meg Yanda, Katelyn Dramis, Megan Ernst and Rachel Walker."
On Tuesday, HIES welcomed Attorney General Baker, along with The Century Council President and CEO Ralph Blackman and Girl Talk founder and executive director Haley Kilpatrick. The Century Council, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, and Girl Talk, a national peer-to-peer mentoring program in which high school girls mentor their younger peers, are partnering in an effort to promote good leadership and decision-making skills to combat peer pressure.
As a part of Tuesday's program, leaders encouraged mothers and daughters to engage in conversations about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking, as well as for students to gain some tools and strategies to avoid those dangers as they enter their teens. "It is very critical we get this message out – not just here, but around the country," Baker says.
Ms. Friedman, chapter faculty advisor, says it was an honor to have such distinguished guests positively influencing the students. "I hope that Girl Talk is able to bring more inspirational and educational programs to our Middle School girls in the future since this program was a wonderful success."
Girl Talk and The Century Council decided to announce their partnership at our school not because our girls are an especially at-risk group of young women, but because our program is so strong, says Middle School Principal Theresa Jespersen. "Several people from Girl Talk and the Attorney General's office commented to me on the lively participation during the program; they were impressed with the comments the girls made, as well as their willingness to talk. We've got a lot of take-charge girls here, and we want to encourage that strength in all our young women," she says.
With the school's strong leadership and successful Girl Talk chapter, it's no wonder the organizations chose to recognize HIES – and two of its seniors. Courtney and Meg both received scholarships worth $1,250 from Girl Talk in recognition of their dedication to the program.
While Courtney feels truly blessed she received the scholarship, she says the participation of the middle school girls touched her heart. "They had such great ideas to offer about peer pressure, and I was so proud of all of them," she says.
The HIES Girl Talk chapter certainly gives us something to be proud of – and talk about.