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'Girl Talk' youth program counters school bullying with mentoring

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That dynamic became all too clear to Ms. Kilpatrick at age 15, when she was teased and bullied after moving from a public school to the tony Deerfield-Windsor School in Albany, Ga. She started Girl Talk at Deerfield-Windsor in 2002 after watching her younger sister go through many of the same vexations she had faced.

"For middle school girls, everything is an immediate crisis," Kilpatrick says. "So my thought was, if we could help these girls find a meaning and a purpose in middle school, then maybe they wouldn't make bad choices later on."

Since then, Girl Talk has become one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in the country. Girl Talk has received coverage in CosmoGIRL!, Glamour, and Self magazines, and Kilpatrick has appeared on national morning TV shows.

In 2007, Kilpatrick channeled her sense of mission – and, her friends say, her prodigious multitasking skills – into making Girl Talk a full-time nonprofit effort.

Along the way, she turned down corporate sponsorships from clothing and cosmetic firms. If Girl Talk had accepted the sponsorships, she says, "I realized that we'd be sending a mixed message, as we're talking about body image to these girls."

Her stick-to-your-guns strategy paid off. Shortly after that, Atlanta investment fund manager Ron Bell met with Kilpatrick and put an envelope on the table: It had a donation check for $50,000, enough to kick-start a major expansion of Girl Talk.

Named in 2010 as one of Atlanta's "Power 30 Under 30," Kilpatrick – with her straight blond hair and high boots – looks every bit a prep school alumna.

But that image is deceiving, her friends say. She still spends enough time with girls to throw around teen phrases like "I love your guts" that befuddle fellow adults.

"Haley was born to help others, and she devotes her entire life to helping others, not for the credit, not for money, clearly, but because it is all that is acceptable to her," says Kara Friedman, a middle school adviser at Holy Innocents Episcopal School in north Atlanta.

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