Board of Directors


The Kids-U Board is a diverse group of individuals elected to represent the best interest of our stakeholders including our children and families. The Kids-U board elects officers annually and our board terms are for three years. The board is a working board with working and effective committees. If you are interested in becoming a board member please email info@kids-u.org.

Jon Killen

Board Chair

Jon-Bertrell Killen is a Business Intelligence consultant, dedicated to helping others make better decisions through the use of data.  He volunteers with several other  community and civic organizations, including: Board Chair for Kids-U, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Mayor’s Star Council, Latino Center for Leadership Development, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He is a graduate of Southern Methodist University where he received both a B.A in Business Management and M.B.A in Strategic Leadership. Jon is a devoted husband and father; he lives in Oak Cliff with his wife Nikki and two children.

Neima Golnabi

Vice Chair

Mr. Golnabi is a Manager and Business Consultant for Grant Thornton. He lives and works in Dallas. He currently volunteers for the Dallas Heart Walk, and has volunteered in the past for Goodwill Industries, Back on My Feet and Metrocrest Services. Education is a cause he values tremendously. He also believes education is a sustainable path to emerge from a low-income family to a middle-class-and-beyond family. Mr. Golnabi has a passion for this cause and is delighted at the opportunity to contribute and give back to the community. He is focused on helping standardize and document the operational processes at Kids-U, which is key in creating a model to be implemented at each location as the organization continues to grow. He also is working to identify all the operational Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as well as financial KPIs to measure the organization’s performance throughout different periods, highlight areas of improvement, and enhance efficiency.

Barrett Podpechan


Mr. Podpechan is an experienced accounting professional who 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 wife and child.

Pam Ongley


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

Morgan Mitchell


Mr. Mitchell is an Investment Analyst for Brush Street Investments, a multi-generation single family office.   He has also been drawn to roles that help advocated the advancement of education.  His volunteer experience began in college, where he participated in the Missouri Valley Conference’s “Just Read” program and continued upon graduation as he served  as the Education Chairman for his fraternity. Additionally, Morgan volunteers as an instructor for Junior Achievement. He is a member of the CFA Society of Dallas Fort Worth, has earned the right to use the CFA Charterholder designation, and lives in Dallas with his fiance Mattie and their chocolate lab Mr. Bingley.

Paula DeGroat

Cofounder, Chairman Emeritus & Director

Ms. DeGroat 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 (now Kids-U) and currently is Executive Director for Lifeline Charter Schools in California. Paula is a mother of three and has three grandchildren. Paula was the first president of the board for Kids-U, serving in that capacity for 6 years.

Stephen Dixon


Mr. Dixon is an experienced franchise-industry executive who has lived primarily in Dallas since 1985. He holds a B.S. from Oklahoma State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Denver. He is currently 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 nonprofit that was engaged in securing non-restricted income for Camp Fire Lone Star Council. Mr. Dixon is dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged children and believes strongly in the mission and vision of Kids-U. He and his wife Gillian have two children and live in north Dallas.

James McFall


Mr. McFall is an attorney with Jackson Walker. He is an associate, focusing his practice on complex commercial, construction and media litigation. He lives and works in Dallas. He is co-founder of a new non-profit that provides support for low-income high school students in San Antonio. Mr. McFall 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. Having grown up in similar communities to those of our students, Mr. McFall is keenly aware of the difficulties these students face and excited to meet their needs through Kids-U.

Murray Morgan


Murray Morgan lives in Lake Highlands and has his hands in just about everything that deals with LH. Most of in the community have heard his name and after two years of coaxing, at last we have him on our board! He is President/CEO for Kingsley Metal Works USA out of Ontario CA. Mr. Morgan 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 Dallas Police Department. He is a strong leader in the Lake Highlands community and loves the Kids-U concept.

Miller Johnson

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 Kids-U 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 woman-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, Ms. Brewer is passionate about reaching out to and serving our community. As a mother of three, she is often found advocating on behalf of our youth, including with many nonprofits 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 nonprofit organization dedicated to developing a cure for this form of pediatric epilepsy.

Carla Dodds


Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Carla Giovannetti 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.

Ms. 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, 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 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. 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.

Brandon Baker


Mr. Baker serves as a Community Engagement Manager for Thrivent Financial’s Texas region, as well as VP of the Texas Thrivent Member Network Board. He worked with Kids-U for almost a decade before taking his current position, serving first as a Site Coordinator, then Director of Development, and finally as VP of Operations and Development. In addition to his charitable work with our board, Mr. Baker has served as a volunteer with Carry the Load and as a mentor and panelist for Capacity Building Institute Dallas, working with local nonprofits to develop systems and processes to grow capacity while developing sustainability. After completing his B.S. in Business Management and Marketing with the University of Phoenix, he went on to study Management at TSU-San Marcos. He and his wife live in Richardson.

Julianna Bond


Ms. Bond has most recently worked with Sendero as an analyst consultant serving banking and other business clients. Her work experiences motivated her to return to school for a master’s in Business Analytics, which she is pursuing at Southern Methodist University. Along the way to earning her BBA from SMU, Ms. Bond attended Xiamen University through the U.S. State Department’s “Critical Languages” program, where she studied Chinese. Her other charitable roles have been as a Hunt Institute Associate Fellow, working on alleviation of poverty, and as an adoption assistant at Dallas Animal Services.