Campus News

Model behavior: Alumna recognized by BET for effort to reduce poverty

Dyci Manns is the founder and executive director of MODEL26.

Alumna Dyci Manns was one of four women younger than the age of 25 honored Nov. 6 on BET’s Black Girls Rock! awards show. The Atlanta native is the founder and executive director of MODEL26, a nonprofit organization that connects young people with volunteer opportunities that reduce poverty and educational disparities.

“I’m excited about the exposure that this award brings to MODEL26,” said Manns, who graduated in May with a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish.

“I hope it will encourage young people to visit our website, learn more about the work we do and support us as we continue to grow.”

MODEL26 is named after Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to education. The inspiration for the organization came to Manns during a 2008 Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Study Abroad Scholarship experience. At a Mayan village in Belize, she saw school children erasing all the work in their composition books from the previous year because they couldn’t afford a new notebook.

After two years of research, Manns founded the precursor to MODEL26, an organization called Bookbags with Basics. In a six-month period, the organization collected bookbags with school supplies for more than 1,000 students in Nicaragua, Uganda and the U.S. Despite the success of the effort, Manns realized that simply providing school supplies wouldn’t be enough to break the cycle of poverty. As soon as students’ pencils whittled down to nothing and their pens ran dry, they’d be in the same situation.

By harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of college students and directing them toward pre-existing nonprofits focused on policy that addresses social inequities, however, Manns saw an ­opportunity to drive lasting, ­transformative change. To that end, she restructured Bookbags with Basics to create MODEL26, which stands for Making Opportunities by Developing Emerging Leaders. The organization aims to develop young leaders by providing financial assistance and counseling to college students, especially minorities and low-income students, pursuing social policy and human rights internships or participating in short-term volunteer programs abroad. Since its founding at UGA, the organization has established a presence at Louisiana State University, Clark Atlanta University, the University of Maryland, the University of Florida, Hope College, Purdue University and the University of Central Florida.

“A lot of people call us the ‘me generation,’ but I think that we care more than a lot of people give us credit for,” Manns said. “Whenever I studied abroad or volunteered, I rarely saw any other minority students. And it’s not that they’re not interested. It’s just that they don’t know how to navigate the process of finding volunteer ­opportunities.”