Student Alumni Association: Gift to Tech Celebration

“SAA has been steadily growing over the past few years, leading to a $4,000 increase in this year’s Gift to Tech donation,” said Daisy Smith, SAA President and third-year biomedical engineering major. “This is fantastic for the Gift to Tech program because SAA increases its philanthropic impact on campus with each new member.”

Each year, students are eligible to join SAA and make a $10 membership donation to Georgia Tech. Half of that donation is awarded to a unique campus initiative through the Gift to Tech program. For the first 1,000 members, each donation to SAA is matched by an alumnus, giving an additional $10,000 toward Gift to Tech.

Past recipients of the SAA Gift to Tech include Student Mental Health services, Klemis Kitchen (a Georgia Tech food pantry for students with dietary needs and financial concerns), the Georgia Tech band, and the Office of Solid Waste and Recycling.

“This year, SAA started out with 16 possible project ideas, which our Leadership Team then narrowed down to eight options,” Smith said. “These eight were voted on by the entire student body and then SAA members were eligible to vote for the final winner.”

This year's winner, Excel, is a four-year program offered by Georgia Tech for students with mild intellectual and developmental disabilities. After completing the program, Excel students receive two certificates: a Social Growth with Academic Enrichment Certificate and a Social Growth, Academic Enrichment, and Career Exploration Certificate.

Excel courses include content in reading, math, science, financial literacy, interpersonal communication skills, and more. Students learn a modified portion of the curriculum based on their individual functional level. The SAA award to Excel will support the growth of Excel’s Career Development Program.

“We are looking forward to developing the career exploration component of the program by having Excel students participate in campus jobs, internships, job shadows, and paid employment opportunities,” said Kenneth Surdin, director of Excel.

The Excel program includes peer support, which gives Tech students a way to get involved with the program. They can act as mentors and help the students in Excel become more active members of campus.

Students in the Excel program have access to campus services and activities including the Campus Recreation Center, sporting events, and the library. Students learn to manage their schedule of classes, extracurricular activities, fitness, and work.

This year, Excel is supporting eight students who are living in the Square on Fifth Apartments in Tech Square. Next year, Excel plans to enroll around eight new students. To learn more about Excel, visit

The matching gift donor for 2015-16 is Joe Evans, current chairman and CEO of State Bank Financial Corporation and an active Tech supporter.

“Giving back is both a way of saying 'thank you' and ensuring that other generations have the same opportunity for the life-changing experience at Tech that I had,” Evans said.

The Gift to Tech Celebration will be held on April 19 from 11 a.m. to noon to honor the winning project and award the donation. 


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