Congratulations to Darya Khani, one of our Ron Bell Inspirational Leaders of the Year! We are so proud of you, and so excited to share your story of self-love, strength, and inspiration with the Girl Talk community!
“Finding myself was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I didn’t realize I had darker skin than most people, until someone pointed it out to me in middle school. I didn’t know my name was so unusual from the “norm” til some told me. I didn’t know my heritage and ancestry was “frowned” upon til someone told me.
These words were shared to me in middle school. Unfortunately, I believed it. And I am not the only one who believed what a bully said. I believed that I wasn’t the same as everyone else. Thus, I shouldn’t demand the same respect as everyone else. I was convinced people didn’t want to talk to me because I didn’t look the same.
Nevertheless, one Wednesday morning in Middle School I was pushed along to this club called Girl Talk. Little did I know the profound affect it would leave upon me. As soon as I stepped foot into the Girl Talk room, I felt this sense of belonging and tenderness I hadn’t before. The high school leaders greeted me with a warm welcome and escorted me to the donut line. I picked myself a strawberry sprinkle donut and continued to my chair where I would sit and stare, in awe of what the Girl Talk leaders were talking about. The topic of the week was Acceptance. My eyes awakened as I listened so carefully to what they were preaching. The Girl Talk leaders mentioned how the greatest gift you can give someone is unconditional love and acceptance. The idea of unconditional love and acceptance would play a huge role in my upbringing.
The awe factor I received on my first day at Girl Talk made me want to come back for more. I made it a weekly priority to attend Girl Talk in the morning. In fact, I made my dad drop me off at school early enough to be the first to pick my donut and listen to the Girl Talk meeting in whole.
Week by week I would learn about a new topic. These topics evoked so much curiosity in me. Through my middle school years in Girl Talk I learned how to be a good friend, listener, and overall better person. My final days as a middle schooler I had a better sense of who I was and what I stood for, and I owed it all to Girl Talk.
Approaching high school I was eager to join Girl Talk. It would be my first year as a high school Girl Talk leader. This brought me so much joy watching the middle schoolers grow and understand what Girl Talk was about. I made it a mission to impact a girls’ life like the high school leaders did to mine in middle school.
High School flew by and before you knew it I was the Head Leader of Girl Talk at my Holy Innocent’ Episcopal School Chapter as a junior. Inspired by the middle schoolers and my studies as a high schooler, I developed a 2 hour seminar to teach girls the importance of coding!
You may ask, what does this have to do with anything? Well, I wanted to impact the middle school girls in another way. I taught them how to handle sticky situations, how to be a good friend, and be confident. But I hadn’t yet mentored them in studies. I wanted to share with the girls the importance of school. The privilege of an education. And the value of coding in the world we live in today. I am happy to say the planning for the 2nd Annual Girls who Code is underway.
As I reflect on my Girl Talk journey, I finally realized who I am and what I stand for. I realized that I am lucky enough to be different, so I shouldn’t change myself. I am a proud Iranian girl with strong dark genes that stand out in a crowd! My name is Darya Khani. I love who I have become!
Girl Talk brought the best out in me. It made me become conscience of the value of my diversity and the worth of my word. I hope to help every girl realize the beaming light that lives inside them and their individual beauty.
From leading the Student Diversity Leadership Council at my school to volunteering at the Atlanta Community Food Bank I have a passion for giving back. Thus, I am honored to be the recipient of the Ron Bell Family Foundation Inspirational Leader Award.
As I continue my journey at University of Georgia with the Presidential Leadership Scholarship, I aim to uphold high morals and always give back. I am very excited to begin my journey in college as a Biology major in pursuit to give back as a doctor someday. Go Dawgs! And Go Girl Talk!”
Thank you, Darya, for having the courage to make Girl Talk a part of your journey and to share your journey to understanding and embracing who you are. We could not be more proud or grateful for you and all you have done to spread the Girl Talk mission, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!
Girl Talk is a peer-to-peer mentoring program that pairs middle school girls with high school girls who serve as mentors. Our mission is to see confident girls to grow up to be confident women who are strong leaders and are passionate about giving back to their community.