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Girl Talk Club starting in Madison to help mentor middle school girls

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Teacher Sherri Shamwell and Rebecca Tombyll

Before last summer, Rebecca Tombyll probably would not have thought of herself as leader, at least not someone who is destined to make a big difference in her city. Being naturally shy, she felt more comfortable in the shadows than in the spotlight. But, that has all changed now.

Rebecca, a sophomore at James Clemens, is on the verge of bringing one of the fastest growing mentoring clubs to Madison and in the process, likely changing the lives of many young teens.

Representing Alabama as a National Child Awareness Youth Ambassador, Rebecca was chosen to attend the annual Youth Service America conference in Washington, D.C. last summer. Sherry Shamwell, a teacher at James Clemens who used to teach at Discovery, believed in Rebecca and nominated her.
She was able to meet other people from around the country who have hearts to help others, just as she does.

The conference was a life changer for Rebecca.

“I learned that I can stand up for myself and be a leader,” Rebecca said about her experiences at the conference. “I am really shy, so what this did for me was bring me out of my shell and show me I can make a difference for other people. This is what I really like to do.”

Next week, Rebecca will hold the first Girl Talk Club meeting in Madison. It will be held at the Madison Library on Wednesday, Feb. 6, from 4 to 5 p.m.
Girl Talk (www.mygirltalk.org) is an international non-profit peer-to-peer mentoring program with a very simple premise: high school girls mentor middle school girls to help them deal with the issues they face during their formative early teenage years. There are more than 40,000 girls in 43 states and seven countries in Girl Talk clubs.

“It’s open to all middle school girls,” Rebecca said about the new club. “We are also looking for high school girls that will help mentor.”

Rebecca has a passion to help prevent bullying, a problem so many young teenagers face in middle school. And there are other difficult problems. “We are looking for girls like Rebecca who have a similar passion can help middle school girls, which is a usually a difficult time,” Shamwell said.

Life is so hard when you’re in middle school. Not a little girl anymore, but not quite as old as you’d like to be. It can be a confusing time. But a mentor program lets girls know there’s hope and help.

Rebecca is one of 51 ambassadors chosen nationally to return to her state after the conference armed with a grant to make a difference.

“Sometimes we overlook introverts because they are usually very shy, but they often make great leaders and are very observant,” said Shamwell.

Rebecca has done a lot of observing and has some views on what teens are facing today, especially in relation to bullying. “I think what teens want the most is popularity and they try to be a certain way to look good in front of others, but they don’t realize they may be hurting others in the process. They feel bad about themselves so they try to make themselves feel better by picking on others.”

She says she has been bullied most of her life, but it has slowed down since being in high school. “People start to mature a little more in high school and grow  out of it as they realize the harm they are doing to others,” said Rebecca. “But, in middle school, they still have enough immaturity to where bullying is a problem. They don’t realize what they do to people.”

The Girl Talk Club in Madison will meet weekly. The meetings will be led by high school leaders with the goal of helping middle school girls learn from their peer mentors and better understand and address the issues they face. In doing so, the girls develop confidence, leadership skills and compassion.

For more information about Girl Talk, go to www.mygirltalk.org.

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