UGA Alumni Association:



Alumna recognized by L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth Program

In May of 2009, Books for Keeps founder Melaney Smith (BBA ’89) met an Alps Road Elementary second-grader who was disappointed that school was breaking for summer. Why? When school ended, so did her access to books.

Smith wanted to help, and learned that many of the student’s classmates were in a similar situation. Without books, the reading skills some of these second graders had developed during the school year could decline over the summer, a circumstance recognized by educators as “summer slide”.

“I thought, ‘why doesn’t somebody do something about this?’  And then I thought, ‘I am somebody,’” said Smith.

Research led her to Dr. Jennifer Graff, a professor at the University of Georgia College of Education who co-authored a study on the topic.

Adopting the methods used in the study, Smith started Books for Keeps’ primary program: Stop Summer Slide! This flagship initiative provides 12 books to every child in the elementary schools served by Books for Keeps. In 2015, Stop Summer Slide! was offered to students in ten elementary schools, eight in Athens elementary schools and one each in Atlanta and Warrenton.  

At the end of each school year, Books for Keeps hosts mock book fairs where the children come to their respective schools’ media center and select the books they would most like to own.

“If we expect them to read at home during the summer with no encouragement from adults, they have to have something they like to read,” Smith said.

Volunteers help children find the books they want, and ask the students questions to align book-collection needs for the following year. All schools in the program have been designated as Title 1 schools, which means 90 to 100 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch, Smith said.


This month, her efforts were rewarded with at $10,000 grant from the L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth program. Now Smith is in the running for an additional $25,000 to be determined by public vote and awarded at a ceremony in New York on December 1.

Click here to vote once per day for Smith to help Books for Keeps win $25,000.

Books for Keeps recently completed a plan to expand to all elementary Clarke County schools in Athens and at least five more in Atlanta.

“We don’t add a school until we have community support that we know will last,” she said. “Our expansion funds are seed money, but there has to be community support.”

She hopes exposure from the L’Oreal honor will help spread the word about Books for Keeps, particularly in Atlanta. And she hopes to meet and network with her fellow Women of Worth winners next month in New York.

If you would like to help, consider joining the Books for Keeps initiative by volunteering, donating books, offering a monetary gift, hosting a book drive, or spreading the word through social media and your daily personal interaction with others. Your contributions could make a difference in the life of a child. 

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umano on Shark Tank

Alex (BBA '09) and Jonathan (BBA '07, AB '07) Torrey, brothers and co-founders of umano, share a passion for fashion and philanthropy. The brothers founded umano in 2011 in Athens, Georgia, a town they describe as “the place where southern soul meets the heart of indie rock." The UGA graduates launched their social entrepreneurial venture with one simple idea at the core of their brand: fashion for good.

Through umano, which means ‘human; mankind; to show humanity and act humanely towards others’, Jonathan and Alex are dedicated to elevating everyday fashion essentials to create fashion with a purpose. Despite not having much fashion experience, the brothers set out to create fashion for good because they believe that every kid deserves a chance; it isn’t about geography, color or creed.

Their passion to create great fashion is equaled only by their drive to advocate for education by equipping children in impoverished communities with basic school supplies needed to succeed. umano visits dozens of partner schools in impoverished communities in the United States and abroad. The brand’s “virtuous cycle” starts and ends with a Giving Trip, where umano visits a partner school to give backpacks full of essential school supplies and collect drawings. Kids draw the brand’s signature PocketArt, which is featured on umano's T-shirts and with every purchase, umano gives a backpack to students in Athens, Harlem, Los Angeles, Mexico and Peru, with a partnership in Haiti set to commence soon.


Friday, November 20 at 9:00 p.m., umano will be featured on the high-stakes reality show Shark Tank on ABC. Shark Tank is a television show that features The Sharks – tough, self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons – as they invest in America’s best businesses and products. The Sharks give people a chance to chase the American dream, and potentially secure business deals that could make them millionaires. The brothers will pitch their unique concept and try to convince the panel of sharks that their company is worthy of an investment. Tune in to support Alex and Jonathan and see whether or not a Shark will join the umano team!

For more information regarding umano, please visit their website.

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World Kindness Day

This guest blog is written by Abby McHan '17, strategic communications intern for the UGA Alumni Association. 

November 13 is World Kindness Day, a day that celebrates acts of kindness, no matter how large or small. This day is dedicated to encouraging others to make a small act of random kindness and pay it forward to others. Historically speaking, November 13 is the day that the World Kindness Movement was created at the Tokyo Conference in 1997. Like World Kindness Day, the movement was created in order to create global awareness for the necessity of kindness in our world.

The UGA Alumni Association is lucky to have an alumni base that understands the concept of giving back. Many graduates commit acts of kindness through their professional careers, from educating children to providing small businesses with the financial expertise necessary for growth. Recognition and thanks need be given to alumni who are involved with their alma mater and communities. However, kindness does not have to involve giving money. Here are some small acts of kindness you might work into your everyday life:

  • Show your friends how much you appreciate them by writing a letter or even sending a quick "hope you're doing well" text message.
  • Pick up stray litter around your community.
  • Invite friends or family over for dinner. 
  • Offer to carry something to the mail room for your coworker. 
  • Give someone a shout-out on your social media accounts for a job well done. 
  • Be kind to yourself and don't be afraid to splurge a little. Let yourself eat that slice of cake!

Use this day to take a step back and look around. No matter what, don't be afraid to reach out and lend a hand to those who might need an extra boost of kindness around you. 

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