Haley Kilpatrick, a graduate of Deerfield-Windsor School and founder of Girl Talk, conducts a book signing and parent-daughter workshop at the school Monday. Established in 2002, Girl Talk is now in 43 states and six countries.
ALBANY -- Haley Kilpatrick, Albany native and founder of Girl Talk, made an appearance at Deerfield-Windsor School on Monday to mingle with the community and get back to the organization's roots.
Kilpatrick, a fifth-generation Albanian who now lives in Atlanta, stopped in her hometown as part her nationwide book tour to promote "The Drama Years," which was released on April 3.
"It's very bittersweet...remembering memories," she said Monday of her appearance at her former high school. "The sweet part is me being thankful for (my memories at Deerfield).
"There is kindness filling the hallways and a general understanding that kindness is cool (as a result of the program)."
The tour's launch coincided with the book's release. It has so far been in New York City; Louisville, Ky.; St. Louis and Atlanta. There are also plans to visit Raleigh, N.C.; Denver, Seattle; Frisco, Texas and Phoenix before it wraps on Memorial Day weekend in Seaside, Fla.
"As a parent, it feels good to see your child helping others and making a difference," said Tonya Kilpatrick, Haley Kipatrick's mother, during her daughter's visit. "We have gotten such great feedback (from those living in Albany). It is overwhelming to feel the love, support and blessings.
"It is overwhelming to see even my high school friends reaching out."
Even the two younger children of the Kilpatrick family -- a son, Will, and a daughter, Kelly -- have seen their own friends show support for their older sister, Tonya Kilpatrick said.
"That says a lot of the people and parents in Albany," she said. "It's like everyone is a big team."
Haley Kilpatrick founded the Girl Talk organization as a 15-year-old student at Deerfield-Windsor. Now going into its 10th year, the mentoring program that caters to middle school girls has established a presence in 43 states and at least six countries.
The Girl Talk founder's mother also went on to mention W.T. Henry, the school's headmaster at the time, as well as a teacher, Sharon Presley, in noting those who have shown support.
"They dreamed this dream with us," she said.
The goal of the 2004 Deerfield graduate is to see Girl Talk reach all 50 states, she said in an interview with The Albany Herald earlier this month.
At the school on Monday, Kilpatrick conducted a book signing as well as a parent-daughter workshop, something she has done on the other stops on the tour.
Before conducting the event, she met with Deerfield's Girl Talk group earlier that afternoon. There, she observed the group's final meeting of the year and was presented with a cake as well as a copy of a paver brick commemorating the organization's 10th anniversary, school officials said.
Kilpatrick was featured earlier this month in a national news story in USA Today titled "Girls' middle school years don't have to be drama years." She has also had her share of national TV appearances, including NBC Nightly News, CNN, HLN and TBS.
Recently, she was on NBC's "Today Show" to get the word out about the book. There, she was greeted by the guest host, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, co-anchor Ann Curry and Dr. Janet Taylor.
"The Drama Years," meant to serve as a guidebook for parents and teachers struggling to help girls navigate the transition into adolescence, is the culmination of 2,000 hours worth of interviews over three years with girls from across the country. In the course of the research process, there were some answers being sought regarding the behaviors and struggles of girls at that age and what parents could do to help.
The ultimate goal behind all of this, Kilpatrick has said, is to break the "mean girl" cycles by helping parents raise confident, healthy girls who respect each other as adults. This is done by not only opening up the lines of communication between tweens and their parents, but to also give them the opportunity to be mentored by high school girls -- the ones that have been through the emotional turmoils of middle school most recently.
Among others that have believed in Girl Talk from its roots was Mary Ashley Whitaker, a long time friend of Haley Kilpatrick who now serves as the director of chapters for the organization.
The two went to school together at Deerfield until Whitaker's family moved to Las Vegas. She would eventually establish two chapters in California before relocating back to Georgia.
"I'm super passionate about Girl Talk," Whitaker said. "It's so exciting (to be back at Deerfield). It gives me the chills...just to know where this all started.
"(The progress of the organization) is incredible."