Interview with Kristan Shimpi, Executive Director at Friends TALK

March 4, 2016

I’m super excited to feature a special guest today, Dr. Kristan Shimpi, Executive Director at Friends TALK, a nonprofit she started three years ago. Kristan has an extensive background in education and development. She’s been working with teachers, parents, and students since 1995. Kristan co-developed an academic support skills curriculum at the Duke Child and Family Study Center and has a special interest in curriculum development and teaching social awareness.

Kristan and I have been virtual friends for just a short time, but I’m crazy about her enthusiasm and energy. She’s a mother of two, runs a nonprofit, does a considerable amount of writing and blogging, and is an athlete. She’s been working out at Carpe Diem consistently for the last 5 years.

I’m in awe of all that she does and am so glad she was willing to let me interview her and the inspiring work she does at Friends TALK.


Friends TALK

Interview with Dr. Kristan Shimpi

1.  Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Kernersville, NC. I came to Chapel Hill for college and never left.

2.  What are some of the ways you spend your time?

I love writing, gardening, photography and hanging out with my family. We live in the woods with chickens, cats, a giant dog, and all the wildlife that comes with living in the woods. Never a dull moment for sure!

3.  A few years ago, you began a non-profit called Friends TALK (formerly Girls TALK). What is this?

Friends TALK is an after school program for girls. They learn strategies for being good problem solvers, good friends, how to give back to the community, and celebrate what is unique about them.

4.  That sounds so awesome! What led you to establish the organization?

I used to do social skills training at a local elementary school and quickly saw the need for an outlet for girls to talk about things that are happening in their lives. The world we live in today is much different than the one when you and I were young girls. Gone are the days where moms can put a copy of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret on the bedside table with a stickie note saying “let me know if you have any questions.” Girls need to learn at a young age to stand up for themselves and be true to who they are.

5.  Can you talk a bit about how the program works and maybe give an example of an activity the girls would participate in?

Each lesson has 4 components –

  • Book reading

A children’s book is used to introduce each concept based on a matching theme and/or character. The oral reading and dramatization of the book is done near the beginning of each lesson and serves as a hook to engage the girls. Watching a story line and characters come to life allows the girls to observe behaviors objectively and make connections with their own school or home experiences in a fun, non-judgmental way.

  • Strategy instruction

Following the book reading, instruction around a specific strategy is introduced. TALK is a strategy for how to solve problems with friends:

Think it through before you say or do
Ask about the problem
Listen to what your friend is saying
Keep a friend solution

The ultimate goal when you solve a problem with a friend is that you keep your friend. This means you might have to compromise or think differently, which is not always easy.

  • Fun activity

Each lesson includes a fun activity that allows for creativity and movement. Examples: hula hoop games, relay racing, and jump rope games.

  • Community service

Each week girls set a goal to bring in a canned food item for their local food pantry. Community service teaches the girls the importance of giving back to those less fortunate in their community, and allows for weekly goal setting to remember to bring in the canned food item.

6.  In your experience, what are the biggest issues young girls face when it comes to interacting with others or in a group setting?

Learning how to take the perspective of others, or seeing someone else’s point of view. Whenever you are in a group, you have to think about others and not just yourself. Learning this skill at a young age is crucial in being successful in a group setting.

7.  If you had to pick ONE common goal for the girls who complete the program, what would that be?

To celebrate what is special about them. I showed the “Like A Girl” campaign to the girls when it aired last year. Doing things “like a girl” should be celebrated.

8.  What are some things parents can do to try to instill confidence, thoughtfulness, and a sense of responsibility into their children?

Model the behavior you want to see in your children. Show them it is ok to make mistakes, they are things we can learn and grow from. Also, talk to your children. At our house we have special talk time for both kids (don’t tell my middle school age son I shared this). But having a regular outlet for children to come to you to talk, and not just when there is a problem, really keeps the lines of communication open for any and all types of discussions.

9.  You are a mother of two, started a non-profit, a writer and blogger, plus you lead an active lifestyle. Um, how do you manage that all (this is a selfish question)?

I am fortunate that I have carved out a life that allows me to be creative and do what I love. I also have a wonderful husband who truly is my better half. Our teamwork and honest relationship makes anything doable.

You can find Kristan by visiting the Friends TALK website or blog. You should also check out her blog Life on Wild Azalea Lane where she shares fun stories about her family and animals.

Leave a Reply