Alexia Ridley is the primary News Anchor and Host of 'Athens News Matters,' a program dedicated to current events, news coverage, and philanthropic endeavors. Before coming to Athens, she worked at WGXA TV in Macon. She writes, produces and delivers multiple daily newscasts in addition to booking guests and conducting interviews for our hour-long news show, 'Athens News Matters.'
Shannon Brooks has served as the founding director of the UGA Office of Service-Learning (OSL) since 2005 where she provides leadership, support, and vision for enhancing UGA's service-learning initiatives and its engagement with the community. Under her leadership, opportunities for students to engage with the community as a part of their coursework have expanded to every school and college, and over 40% of UGA students now take a service-learning course before they graduate. She has also led the development of community-university partnerships in the OSL including Experience UGA, which brought over 12,000 Clarke County students to campus last year for academic field trips (a program idea that originated with FC-CIS); and Campus Kitchen, which recovers food and provides 200 meals per week to food insecure seniors in the community. She has served as chair of the board of the Athens Community Council on Aging, chair of the board of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, chair of the SPLOST 2020 Citizens Advisory Committee, and past president of the Classic City Rotary Club. Shannon grew up in Houston, Texas but has called Athens home for 26 years now. She lives in an intergenerational household with her husband, mother, and son, a fifth grader at Timothy Road Elementary School.
Keri Massey, Board Treasurer, Finance Committee Chair, retired from her highly successful career as a financial planning auditor and serves as COO and CFO of Massey Law Group in Athens. She has extensive nonprofit volunteer experience, and her commitment to children and to public schools dates from her mother’s teaching career. She and her husband reside and work in Five Points and are the proud parents of three young children.
Joan Bertsch is a homemaker, mother to three graduates (Jason and twins Dawn and Todd) of Clarke County schools, and the wife of FC-CIS board member Gary Bertsch. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Joan values public education as the daughter of a teacher, principal and superintendent. She worked for nearly 20 years at UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, served on the board and is a longtime supporter of the Athens Clarke County Heritage Foundation (now Historic Athens). Retired and living in the Henderson Avenue Historic District, Joan loves Athens and remains active in community affairs.
Gary Bertsch, Board member, Board Development Committee, is a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus and Founder of the Center for International Trade and Security at UGA where he won multiple awards in his 40 years of service. He is a co-founder and former CEO and Chairman of TradeSecure, LLC. He co-founded and directed the Delta Prize for Global Understanding, hosting and recognizing world leaders, such as Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Mikhail Gorbachev. He is an elected life member of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, the world’s leading international think-tank. He has served on the boards of the Athens Rotary Club, UGA’s research and development foundations, and other organizations.
Kelly Girtz is Mayor of Athens-Clarke County Unified Government. Before he was sworn in as mayor, Girtz maintained a long career in public education, serving as a teacher and school administrator with Clarke County School District (W.R. Coile Middle School & Classic City High School), and as Director for Student Services with Foothills Charter High School. In 2006, after years of interest in national and local politics, he ran for, and was elected to, the District 9 County Commission seat, where he served until becoming Mayor in January of 2019.
Progress everywhere! FC-CIS Athens is the first of its kind by inviting high school students to be part our board in order to build a better-stronger Athens. Meet Aseel Mansour a senior at Cedar Shoals High School. She is an active member and leader in our Bridge to Employment project there. She (like Hadiza, below) was one of 13 BTE students worldwide (out of hundreds of applicants) selected as a BTE Student Ambassador for Johnson & Johnson. She serves on our BTE Steering Committee. She is in the top 20 seniors academically at Cedar.
Progress everywhere! FC-CIS Athens is the first of its kind by inviting high school students to be part our board in order to build a better-stronger Athens. Meet Hadiza Saar a senior at Cedar Shoals High School. She is an active member and leader in our Bridge to Employment project there. She (like Aseel, above) was one of 13 BTE students worldwide (out of hundreds of applicants) selected as a BTE Student Ambassador for Johnson & Johnson. She serves on our BTE Steering Committee. She entered her senior year as the number 2 student academically at Cedar. She is currently a semi-finalist for a prestigious Coca Cola Scholarship (of 68,000 applicants, only 1,617 semi-finalists were selected).
Chief Operating Officer, Epting Events, Owner, Athens Cotton Press
Daniel Epting prides himself on being a 4th generation Athenian and that his wife Melanie delivered both of their daughters Graham (3) and Cora (9mo) in Athens making them the 5th! He believes education is paramount to the Athens economy and as a parent values the need for expanding high quality early childhood education to all Athens residents. As COO of Epting Events, Daniel developed with his family and their amazing team a disaster response division that has served meals and other supplies in Hurricane Relief in 4 states, the US Territory of Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. Daniel opened the Athens Cotton Press in 2015 as an event space, a successful venue for four years that he recently partnered to convert into a distribution center for nonprofits serving those in need – diapers, blankets, coats, gloves, school supplies, books, feminine hygiene, baby products, and much more.
Patrick Howard, Board member and Neighborhood Leader of the Fowler Zone. Patrick works hand-in-hand with the Fowler zone by providing diapers, food, and assistance those in his community. As a board member, Howard is able to give first hand account to the needs of those in Athens.
Exceptionally motivated and resourceful professional with background in program coordination, education, and advocacy. Proven talent for identifying community needs, securing funding, and leading staff teams that implement successful projects and programs. Bilingual (Spanish and English) communicator with extensive experience in public speaking as well as both oral and written translation. Proficient in Microsoft Office applications, Internet research, survey development tools (i.e. Qualtrics), CRM’s (i.e. Salesforce), and electronic marketing platforms (i.e. Mailchimp, Smore). Source: Linkedin
Michaela Lawrence Jeffery is pastor of the Athens Georgia Seventh-day Adventist Church where she has served since October 2017. During the eight years before Athens, she was the Adventist Christian Fellowship director for Georgia-Cumberland Conference and campus minister at Advent House on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus. She is married to Justin Jeffery, and they have two smart and adorable daughters who keep them busy and humble. In the midst of family and church life, Michaela makes time for community connections, reading, writing, podcasting, and knitting.
Judge Donarell Green VI, is a Clarke Central High School graduate, appointed to the Athens-Clarke County Magistrate Court in 2020. Judge Green received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Art from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1994 and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law in Tampa/ St. Petersburg, Florida in 1998. Judge Green has three sons and three grandchildren, Donarell, V, Matthew, Miles, Nia, Nala, and Donarell, VI. In his free time he enjoys music, painting, 40+ basketball at the YMCA, and spending time with his family.
Valerie Bell was raised in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey where she attended Atlantic City Friends School and Absegami High School. She first attended Buena Vista University on Iowa and later William Penn in Oskaloosa, Iowa. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, with a minor in philosophy and a master’s degree in library science from St. John’s University in New York. Valerie is the Director of the Athens Regional Library System, a job she’s held since 2015 when she moved to Athens to take the position. Valerie has been recognized with numerous awards, including the NAACP Community Leader of the Year, and Library Journal magazine, Mover & Shaker.
David Bradley is the President & CEO of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. A graduate of Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, David started his career in the manufacturing business. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Organizational Management , and a former North Carolina Executive of the Year. David received his Certified Chamber Executive degree and is a Senior Fellow with the American Leadership Federation.
Lizette Guevara is currently working as a Family Connection – Communities In Schools Neighborhood Leader in the J.J. Harris Prosperity Zone. Lizette is wholeheartedly committed to providing quality service and resources to residents in her community.
Alice Kinman is an award-winning Senior Lecturer and in the Department of Economics at the University of Georgia Terry College of Business. She served two terms as District 4 Commissioner of the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County, President of the Planning Commission, Land Bank Authority, TSPLOST Oversight Committee, and the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing stakeholders’ team. She served previously on the Family Connection – Communities In Schools board of directors, providing extraordinary leadership as a resource development committee member -- launching our annual fundraising event, Changing the Picture, than as board President.
Paul Kurtz was a faculty member at the University of Georgia School of Law from 1975 to 2013, specializing in criminal law and family law. He earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from Vanderbilt University and his Master of laws from Harvard. He served as the law school’s associate dean for academic and student affairs, and was named to the prestigious endowed position as the J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law. Paul served as reporter for the Georgia Supreme Court’s Indigent Defense Reform Commission, was on the Public Defender Standards Council, and was a member of the Public Interest Loan Repayment Task Force. During his tenure at UGA, Paul was a visiting professor at the University of Texas, University of Missouri, Vanderbilt University, and Mercer University.
Denise Spangler earned her doctorate in mathematics education from UGA and earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and elementary education from Illinois University. Denise joined the University of Georgia faculty in 1995 and has held a series of leadership positions, from the head of the department of mathematics and science education to senior associate dean, and most recently interim dean. She has published 100 scholarly articles, books, and book chapters related to STEM education and how elementary education majors learn to teach mathematics. Denise has contributed to UGA’s STEM Education Improvement Plan and served on the President’s Task Force on Undergraduate Education.