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Twinsburg teens mentor tweens with Girl Talk

by gina mace | reporter Published: October 11, 2016 1:00 PM
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Twinsburg -- It's nearly 7 p.m. on Oct. 6, and more than a dozen sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls are hanging out near the open space of the U-shaped tables in the community room of the Cleveland Clinic Twinsburg Family Health and Surgical Center.

Signing them in and greeting them as they enter are seven Twinsburg High School girls.

It's just about time for the first Girl Talk meeting of the month.

Tonight's topic: bullying.

Girl Talk is an Atlanta-based non-profit that helps teens build self-esteem, develop leadership skills and value community service, according to a 2013 press release.

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The idea, said parent adviser Lisa Witherite is for high school girls to help their middle school counterparts learn to deal with the issues they will face as they approach high school and beyond.

Witherite started a local chapter so her sixth-grade daughter could join.

"Part of what appeals to me most is having high school girls answer questions and give girls a place to talk without their parents," Witherite said.

She found out about the program through her involvement in direct marketing company, 31 Gifts. The company's foundation, 31 Gives, donates to Girl Talk.

Witherite said the dozen or so high school leaders run the organization their way.

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"As an adult, there are things the girls do that I would think would work better if you did it another way, but I let them do it," Witherite said. "They can put on their college application that they started and ran a chapter."

Eight group leaders interacted with about 16 younger girls at this meeting.

They start the meeting by offering a snack, apples, then a game of Telephone to break the ice.

The girls giggle as the phrase "go, girl, go" becomes unrecognizable the further around the room it gets.

Then the girls break up into groups of four, with two leaders in most groups, to discuss different kind of bullying and how to defuse a bullying situation.

Carrie Sinex and Sophie Olson, both sophomores, use humor to get their point across about passive aggressive bullying. Carrie points out to the girls that the bully may be going through a personal tragedy or family problem that makes him or her lash out.

"Everybody is going through something," she said.

Carrie tries to pass on her philosophy to the girls.

"I never want to be the reason someone cries," she said.

Most of the high schoolers are founding members of the Twinsburg chapter, which started in April.

Hanna Thompson, a sophomore, said the group has given her as much or more than she has given it.

"It has helped me to be more open, and the girls make me feel so good," she said.

Anna Thomas, also a sophomore, wants the younger girls who may become involved in serious family problems to have someone on their side who can give them feedback if they're in sticky situations.

"I had no one to talk to," she said. "Sometimes you don't know what you don't know because you haven't been through it."

"We learn from each other," said Sophia Olson.

Jojo Botta, whose twin sister, Coco Botta, is also a mentor, said she has learned how to speak her mind just from mentoring the younger students.

"I'm a lot more open about telling people my feelings," she said.

Sometimes one of the younger girls will come up with a solution the leaders hadn't considered, Sophia said.

"Sometimes it amazes me at how mature the girls are," she said. "Sometimes they'll learn something and come back and tell us they tried it and we realize we made a difference."

Email: gmace@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9423

Twitter: @twinsburgohio

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