About Us

Mission: To improve the lives of low-income children by concentrating on education and issues that affect the whole child

Vision: To produce engaged, educated, and contributing citizens and leaders.


  • Quality
  • Empowerment
  • Character
  • Optimism
  • Community
  • Achievement

Kids-U is a free after school tutoring service for at-risk students in grades K-8th. Tutoring services include:

  • Math
  • Language Arts
  • Reading

Jackson Branch

Kids-U @ the Jackson Branch Apartments
9690 Forest Lane
Dallas, TX 75243
Opened October 2010


Kids-U @ the Solaris Apartments
11515 Leisure Dr.
Dallas, TX 75243
Opened September 2011

Mayan Palms

Kids-U @ the Mayan Palms Apartments
7326 Hunnicut Rd. #1072
Dallas, TX 75227
Opened November 2011


Kids-U @ the Alista Apartments
10028 Royal Lane
Dallas, TX 75238
Opened June 2013

Towne Center

Kids-U @ Towne Center
8620 Park Lane
Dallas, TX 75231
Opened May 2014


Kids-U @ Estara
11321 Woodmeadow Pkwy. #11161
Dallas, TX 75228
Opened Sept. 2014


Kids-U @ Vineyards
9669 Forest Lane
Dallas, TX 75243
Opened May 2015


Kids-U @ Claremont
2472 Highland Rd.
Dallas, TX 75228
Opened June 2016

Fair Oaks

Kids-U @ Fair Oaks
8849 Fair Oaks Crossing
Dallas, TX 75243
Opened June 2016

Cantera Creek

Kids-U @ Cantera Creek
9750 Royal Ln.
Dallas, TX 75231
Opened Sept. 2016

Kids U - History 3
Kids-U, formally known as Dallas Community Lighthouse was founded in November 2002 to address one of the most profound problems in Dallas: children not completing their education. Diana Baker and Paula DeGroat founded the organization with the goal to make a positive impact on the drop-out rates in Dallas. The combined passion of the founders to assist the low-income students in achieving academic success is what fueled the creation of Kids-U. “The academic achievement gap between poor and non-poor students is well-known. Low-income children consistently fall behind their peers in test scores, graduation rates, college enrollment, and other measures of academic success (cbpp.org).” This achievement gap was the inspiration for the starting of Kids-U.

Kids-U is a free after school tutoring program set up on-site in low-income apartment communities. Our goal is to provide pathways out of poverty for the Kids U - History 2students who are most at-risk of not completing their education by providing tutoring in the core learning subjects of math, language arts and reading.

There are over 100,000 students in Dallas County between the ages of 5 and 13 who are unsupervised during after school hours (Today’s Children, Tomorrow’s Communities, 2006). We believe these are the most critical hours for the student. Our economically disadvantaged students, who are primarily Hispanic and African American, are most likely to be unsupervised due to a severe shortage of free or affordable afterschool programming in our community. It is these student groups who are in greatest need of mentoring, academic support and guidance to alleviate the enormous risks of becoming involved in substance abuse, juvenile crime, and early sexual behavior. Most importantly it is these students who are failing to graduate.

Kids U - History 4Kids-U has grown since our initial site opened in December 2002 with 32 children. We currently operate 8 Kids-U in 8 low-income apartment communities in Northeast and South Dallas tutoring close to 300 children. As we have grown in size we have also grown our programs to provide high quality after school programming. We have expanded our programs to include a unique hands-on teaching style; as well as expand our programming to the adults and the community.

Kids U - History 1As we continue to grow it is important to our organization that our new Kids-U operate at the level of quality as our established sites do. Our management structure provides in-house quality control methods designed to ensure our programs meet best practice standards. The 2008 Fact Sheet from the National Institute of Out of School Time states: “Data shows that children who have access to out-of-school-time activities which are of high quality, designed and staffed by professionals, and are based on youth development research enjoy a wide variety of positive outcomes ranging from school success to better health.” Participation in various structured out-of-school time activities has been shown to have the greatest impact and most positive effect on those who are most at-risk. At Kids-U our focus is on quality. Our tutoring sites provide programming based on national “best practice” standards to empower, engage, and encourage at-risk children to achieve success in education.
Kids U - History 5

Our eight current properties provide year round service to the at-risk students, their families and their communities reaching out to over 300 children, 2,345 residents and eight communities annually. Although our history may be short, our programs have effectively impacted the student’s grades and their self-images as well as assisting the individual families and the communities.

Board of Directors

Jon Killen


Jon Killen is an Arlington, TX native and graduate of Southern Methodist University. He currently serves as a data analyst for Uplift Education. Jon is married to Nikki, and proud father of 18-month old James-Bertrell.  Jon began volunteering at Kids-U seven years ago through his fraternity at SMU.

Neima Golnabi

Vice Chair

Neima Golnabi is a Manager, Business Consultant for Grant Thornton. He lives and works in Dallas. He currently volunteers for the Dallas Hearth Walk, and has volunteered in the past for Good Will Store, Back on My Feet and Metrocrest Services. He believes that education is a cause which he values tremendously. He also believes that education is a sustainable path to emerge from a low income family to a middle class and beyond family. Neima’s has a passion for this cause and would be delighted if given the opportunity to contribute and give back to the community. He feels that he can help standardize and document operational processes at Kids-U, which is key in creating a model to be implemented at each location as the organization continues to grow. Subsequently, he can help identify all the operational KPIs as well as Financial KPIs to
measure the organization’s performance throughout different periods, highlight areas of improvement, and enhance efficiency.

Barrett Podpechan


Barrett is an experienced accounting professional that has spent time in both public and corporate accounting during his career. A native of East Texas, he moved to Dallas after graduating college in 2010, and is currently part of the operational accounting group in a large healthcare company. He has experience with nonprofit and commercial entities alike, as well as focusing on financial and operational matters. During his spare time, he enjoys pursuing other business ventures and enjoying restaurants with his fiancé.

Pam Ongley


Pam Ongley is currently retired after teaching in middle school math and algebra for over 36 years.  Pam has taught in Iowa, Nebraska and Texas.  During her retirement Pam is currently working as a Billing Manager for a Medical Billing Company.  Pam is married with 2 children and 4 grandchildren.  Pam has volunteered over the past 5 years tutoring at an elementary school in Denton.  Pam also volunteers through her church serving on the council and various committees.

Brian DeVoss


Brian graduated from Southern Methodist University and has primarily lived in the Dallas area since 1996. He has worked with charities serving both disadvantaged and disabled children for nearly 20 years in three different states. By day, he is a business transactions lawyer helping businesses and entrepreneurs on formation, capitalization other contract issues. Brian and his wife, Nicole, have three young sons and live in the Lake Highlands area of Dallas.

Morgan Mitchell


Morgan Mitchell is an Investment Analyst for Lockton Dunning Benefits. He lives and works in Dallas. His past service includes advisory board member for Missouri Epsilon Chapter and Chairman for the fraternity he was affiliated with. He has always been drawn to roles that help advocate the advancement of education volunteering with JR. Achievement and volunteering through the Chapter Advisory. He believes he can most benefit Kids-U through his passion and eagerness to promote and assist the board. He believes that his youthfulness might provide a different way of looking at issues our organization faces.

Paula DeGroat

Cofounder, Chairman Emeritus & Director

Paula is an ordained minister and has spent her adult life dedicated to the education of children.  She is the co-founder of Dallas Community Lighthouse and currently is the Executive Director for Lifeline Charter Schools in California.  Paula is the mother of 3 children and 3 grandchildren.  Paula was the first president of the board for DCL serving in that capacity for 6 years.

Jessica Lin


Jessica works for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas as the Information Technology Group Administration Manager. She lives and works in Dallas. Jessica is currently an Executive Council Member for NFTE. In the past she served on the Teaching Committee Student Representative for UTD. Jessica has a unique story as her father grew up in Taiwan and his family was living in poverty unable to afford shoes and often went hungry. Had it not been for a teacher who took him aside and opened his eyes to the opportunity education could provide him. He was unaware of the greater world beyond his current life. He grasped the challenge and earned a PhD. He passed on his dedication and work ethic to his self-proclaimed greatest achievement, his
children. Jessica is dedicated in carrying the torch her father’s teacher passed on to him many years ago. She has such a passion for education and children.

Stephen Dixon


Stephen is an experienced franchise industry executive who has lived primarily in Dallas since 1985. He holds a B.S. degree from Oklahoma State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Denver. He is currently the Chief Development Officer at Children's Lighthouse Franchise Company, an educational preschool franchise company with 40 locations nationwide. He served for five years on the Wohelo Enterprises Board of Directors, a non-profit that was engaged in securing non-restricted income for Camp Fire Lone Star Council. Stephen is dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged children and believes strongly in the mission and vision of Kids-U. Stephen and his wife Gillian have two children and live in north Dallas.

James McFall


James is an attorney with Jackson Walker. He is an associate and his practice focuses on complex commercial, construction and media litigation. He lives and works in Dallas. He is co-founder of a new non-profit in San Antonio which provides support for low-income high school students in San Antonio. James is co-chair of the American Bar Association’s First Amendment and Media Law. He also served as a Big Brother for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He is passionate about increasing educational & professional opportunities for students living in impoverished or underprivileged communities. Growing up in similar communities as these students are living in he is keenly aware of the difficulties these students face.

Murray Morgan


Murray Morgan lives in Lake Highlands and has his hands in just about everything that deals with LH. Most of you have heard his name and we have been trying for 2 years to get him on our board. He is President/CEO for Kingsley Metal Works USA out of Ontario CA. He is current chair for Lake Highlands Area Improvement Association (LHAIA); Chairman for MLC Corp., and Chairman for Jackson MFG Co, Inc. He serves as a liaison for the DPD. He is a strong leader in the Lake Highlands community and loves the Kids-U concept.

Miller Johnson

Director, Former Chairman

Apostle Miller E. Johnson is the Senior Pastor and founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Mesquite.  With a degree in education – children have always been a passion for Miller.  Miller retired from the Dallas Fire Department after 15 years to serve as a full time pastor.  Miller is married and has 5 children and has served on the board of directors for DCL for over 6 years, and as president for 3 years.

Ruth Brewer


Ruth Brewer is the founding member and Managing Partner of Brewer & Lormand, PLLC, a law firm that is certified as a women owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and Women Owned Small Business. She has extensive experience representing corporate clients both as general counsel and in all phases of civil disputes before state and federal courts across the country. She concentrates her practice on matters relating to immigration, insurance claims, employment disputes, products liability, class action suits and maritime law. She assists clients through domestic and international trade and commerce issues. She also facilitates business transactions for individual clients, established corporate leads and growing businesses. She is admitted to the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland and Texas State Bar.
In addition to her law practice, Ruth is passionate about reaching out to and serving our community. As a mother of three, you will find often find Ruth advocating on behalf our youth, of, including many non-profits that provide children a fun and safe place to learn. She is also an advocate for children suffering from epilepsy and is the founder and president of the West Syndrome Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing a cure for this form of pediatric epilepsy.

Carla Dodds


Carla Giovannetti Dodds is global chief marketing officer for Omnilife Group and responsible for all marketing strategies and teams across Omnilife Nutrition, Seytu Cosmetics, Chivas Soccer Team, and Educare (non-profit organization focused on children education and well-being).  Prior as chief marketing officer of U.S. retailer Curacao,  in addition for spearheading the company’s marketing strategies, she was responsible for leading all efforts for Curacao’s Children’s Foundation, which supports higher education for Latino students through scholarships and provides direct assistance to families in need.

Prior to her leadership role at Curacao, Ms. Dodds was Latin American and Caribbean Regional Vice President for MasterCard’s Retail Vertical responsible for business development and leading retail business for the region. Before MasterCard, Ms. Dodds lead marketing strategy for Walmart Brasil in Sao Paulo. She spearheaded both marketing strategies and management transformations that led to a consumer-centric marketing organization. She created and adopted the first integrated marketing strategy across three retail formats resulting in increased
store traffic and sales. Her efforts achieved both cost and operational efficiencies in media buying/planning, R&D for brand development, print strategies, and below the line activity.

In 2008, Ms. Dodds served as senior manager for Walmart US, expanding the company’s multicultural consumer insights and becoming in the subject matter expert for retail consumer behavior. She was an ambassador for ensuring product and store experience relevance; partnering with CPGs, stores and operators on in-store programs, and developing strategic company-wide programs to better serve the end consumer. She was recognized internally for fostering collaboration and establishing cross-company partnerships with Walmart Corporate Affairs, Office of Diversity and the Government Affairs to ensure alignment across the organizations.

She also played a critical role in the company’s market entry into Argentina and Brazil.
Ms. Dodds started her career in merchandising at Walmart International in Argentina. Past speaking engagements have included: National Confectionary Association Conference; Retail 360; Walmart’s Multiculturalism Summit; Latin Billboards Conference; Mediavest/Starcom’s Harnessing Latina Power to Grow Your Business; New York Times/ Mediavest Multicultural Media Talent Pipeline; and Hispancize. Ms. Dodds was an active member of Walmart’s Hispanic Associate Resource Group, ANA Brand Committee, ANA Multicultural Committee, and served on Walmart’s leadership team for LatinaStyle.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ms. Dodds was raised in San Antonio, TX. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Texas State University and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University. Her multi-industry business background includes working with organizations such as TXU Energy, First Choice Power, Liberty Mutual, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Texas Pacific Group (TPG) and Meridian Global Solutions.

Brandon Baker


Annual Report 2013-14pdf_icon

2012-13 Tax Return Form 990pdf_icon

Audit Report (2011-12)pdf_icon

Internal Audit Report (2012-13)pdf_icon

Kids-U Staff

Diana Baker

CEO & Co-founder

Stephanie Turner

Director of Operations

Lenora Stewart

Area Director

Teresa Depuy

Director of Programs & Curriculum

Ejay Moore

Curriculum Specialist

Mary Jones

Administrative Assistant

   Program Staff

    Kenisha Williams
    Renee Newton
    Henry Allen
    Jennifer Massey
    Mary Jones
    Ejay Moore
    Camillia Carter
    Damien Dixon
    Jon Todd
    Melissa Fogarty