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StyleSaves

Ebony Smith's Story

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Ebony Smith's Story

No one ever told me education was important. I was born into a low-income family where no one had graduated from high school. However, at four years old, I tugged at my grandmother’s long dress and cried over my missing homework. I wanted to do well academically to break my family’s generational curse of poverty.

I grew up in a family where money was always a concern. In my mom’s generation, a jar of mayonnaise was often the dinner for twelve, if they were lucky. My mother, one of 12 children, was often hungry, and at times, abused and neglected. Currently, my mom struggles to pay the bills and cannot afford much more than basic necessities.

I have lived in Overtown and Liberty City, two of the most impoverished areas in Miami, most of my life. Hearing gunshots, couples argue, police car sirens, ambulances, loud music, and profanities are the norm in my neighborhood. On a typical day, I would witness half-naked men and women prostituting themselves and young men on the corner selling all sorts of illicit drugs. Having witnessed what goes on in my neighborhood has made me strive to achieve success in everything I do. I looked around and saw what I did not want to be. I buried my head in my books while commuting on the train and bus, knowing that where I came from did not define me.

My academic success in high school led me to Dartmouth College. Without the support of my family, high school faculty, mentors, Adrienne Arsht Center, Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, and specifically, Stylesaves, I could not have arrived here. When I accepted Dartmouth’s offer of enrollment, I realized that I would be moving from a hot climate to a much colder one. I had no shoes, scarfs, sweaters, gloves, or earmuffs. Stylesaves provided it all. They even gave me a brand new Apple Macbook Air. If not for the Stylesaves organization, I would have had to pay Dartmouth more than a thousand dollars for a computer, money I certainly did not have, and have suffered during my first winter. I am so grateful to Stylesaves. I am proud to be the first ever college student StyleSaves has supported with clothing and a laptop.  They simply read my story, forwarded by my mentor, and decided to take a chance on me. Being a freshman at Dartmouth is both challenging and exciting. There have been science and math classes that have made me cry frustrating tears. But I went to my professors’ office hours, signed up for a tutor, and studied everyday until I understood. During my first term, that was all I did and I was not satisfied at Dartmouth. Then, in the winter term, I became involved in the spiritual community on campus and fell in love with Dartmouth. Being part of such a community has made Dartmouth so much more enjoyable. I will not give up my dream of being a successful African American woman, from Liberty City, in the math and science field. It was such a relief that I did not have to juggle adjusting to college life and worrying about my winter wardrobe. I was able to focus on my classes and do really well, academically. As I reflect over my life, I am truly blessed and destined for greatness. #GoGreen!

Written by Ebony Smith

 

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Style Saves in Colombia

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Style Saves in Colombia

One of our give back initiatives took Style Saves overseas to Medellin, Colombia. Fellow Style Saves member Joseph Vega and I went down to Colombia for a weekend, where we arrange a give back event at a small orphanage. For years my family has supported the orphanage, Casa Hogar Nazareth, in Santa Elena, a tiny, mountain top town on the East side of Medellin. To get to Santa Elena, we have to schedule it in advance and map out our route since the ride will take us through some of the roughest parts of Medellin.

View of Santa Elena 

View of Santa Elena 

Once you we arrive at the orphanage, we’re greeted by Father Abraham, who runs the orphanage, teaches at a local school and is one of the most popular priests in Santa Elena. Father Abraham and the orphanage staff, which consists of 8 friars, care for 30 children ranging from ages 2 -16.

The orphanage isn’t like the orphanages you’d find stateside with private rooms and facilities. Casa Hogar Nazareth has been expanded gradually – when there’s money to buy brick and concrete – and includes a small chapel, library with dated, donated books and an open backyard.

Built into the hillside, Casa Hogar Nazareth has three floors, however most of them lack roofs and the windows are just open frames in the side of the building. After school, the children are taken to the library area where that can continue their studies and read some of the donated books. For entertainment, the children are allowed a maximum of 2 hours of movies, seen from a donated projector, before the projector burns out.

Boy at orphanage showing off art work.

Boy at orphanage showing off art work.

When we contact Father Abraham, he mentioned that the students, 24 males and 6 females, and friars were in dire need of shoes. Since our good friends over at BucketFeet and Toms donated new sneakers and school shoes for our back to school event, we were able to provide the students with 30 brand new pairs of shoes.

Children welcoming the Style Saves team to the orphanage. 

Children welcoming the Style Saves team to the orphanage. 

AGiven the chilly weather of Medellin, which is in the Antioquia valley of Colombia, we were also able to gift the students and friars with Galloway windbreakers, perfect for the unpredictable weather. 

In total, we were able to take four huge duffels with new and donated outfits including footwear, bags, clothes and accessories for all the boys and girls.

Girl at the orphanage playing in her new shoes 

Girl at the orphanage playing in her new shoes 

We’re thrilled to share how far our efforts have taken us and the ability we have to help children in need worldwide. To learn more about Casa Hogar Nazareth please feel free to contact me at: Jeffrey@StyleSaves.org

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Mind your P’s & Q’s; an etiquette brunch at Boulan South Beach!

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Mind your P’s & Q’s; an etiquette brunch at Boulan South Beach!

This past Saturday, February 15th, we hosted a lovely afternoon at the Boulan South Beach hotel, complete with a scrumptious brunch and etiquette lesson. Monique Graciotti, owner of the VERITAS Institute, School of Protocol and Etiquette, was gracious enough to lend her expertise and lead a lesson in basic manners.

The Boulan Brunch Menu 

The Boulan Brunch Menu 

Students from Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as children of Style Saves supporters enjoyed a delicious meal from Charles St. NYC Kitchen while Monique taught lessons on how to use silverware properly, introduce oneself and overall behave at the dinner table. Our bright, young guests enjoyed practicing these new skills, much to the enjoyment of their parents!

Welcoming students from Big Brothers Big Sisters

Welcoming students from Big Brothers Big Sisters

Local bloggers Dee Trillo and Ginger Harris joined us for the lesson and meal, along with their little ones. Also in attendance was Marcella Novella, Chairperson of the PAMM Contemporaries and Young Collectors Council, with her two daughters.

Students practicing etiquette lessons taught by Monique Graciotti of VERITAS Institute

Students practicing etiquette lessons taught by Monique Graciotti of VERITAS Institute

No brunch would be complete without a sweet ending and thanks to a kind donation from Stella’s Sweet Shoppe, our little guests enjoyed some tasty cupcakes as the afternoon wrapped up.

Delicious cupcakes provided by our friends at Stella's Sweet Shoppe

Delicious cupcakes provided by our friends at Stella's Sweet Shoppe

We had a blast hanging out with this great group of kids and are so proud of how well they all did during the lesson. Thanks to our supporters in the Miami community we hope to continue to be able to provide valuable lessons like these to our students. You can check out more pictures from the afternoon on Facebook.

Up next for Style Saves? A fitness-focused fundraiser at Miami’s newest workout spot. Are you ready to sweat in style? Stay tuned for more details! 

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