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 [email protected].

Current Board & Officers

Tom Dwyer

Board Chair

Mr. Dwyer recently retired as the founding partner and Managing Director of Silverstone Healthcare Company, LLC (SHC) and its affiliate, Silverstone Senior Living, LLC (Silverstone) in Texas and Florida.  Over his career, Mr. Dwyer served as Lead Principal for BOKA Powell’s Healthcare Services Group, Partner in JBA, LLC an international healthcare architecture company, Principal and Partner in Medical Cities Inc and Crow-Wright healthcare developers.

Mr. Dwyer has published, presented and appeared on panels for both Hospital and Senior Housing organizations including, Centering Institute for Healthcare, ULI, ACI Upscale Hospital Conference, NACHRI, ASHE, American Institute of Architects, Senior 100 and the American Hospital Association.

Elleni Bekele

Vice Chair/Secretary

Ms. Bekele is a consulting professional at Sendero Management Consulting Firm. She holds an MPM (Master of Project Management) and an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. Ms. Bekele is passionate about education and excited to be a part of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping kids with limited opportunities to learning.

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.

Brandon Baker


Brandon Baker is a VP Financial Solutions Advisor with BOA/Merrill Lynch where he engages clients and prospective clients in goals-based conversations to provide education and guidance when they need it most. Brandon began his professional career as an AmeriCorps, then AmeriCorps VISTA member with Kids-U.  During his time with Kids-U (13 years as an employee and 6 as a volunteer) he worked as a site coordinator, development associate, director of development, quality coordinator, and VP of operations and development.  Brandon has been involved with Kids-U in one way or the other since he left in 2016 to join Thrivent Financial.  He held multiple leadership roles as well as being a financial advisor before joining BOA/Merrill in 2022. 

Brandon is passionate about giving back to his community through volunteerism and working on or with the Board of Directors for a number of local non-profits.  “Working with Kids-U opened up my eyes to how much impact and change you can make when you make people and quality your priority. I believe that everyone deserves a chance at success in life, and most times in life to achieve success you need some help along the way.” Brandon is married to wife Lindsey, has a son Peyson, daughter Emerly Kate, and dog Zoe.  He received his B.S. in Business Management from the University of Phoenix, and will be pursuing his CFP at SMU spring of 2023.

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.

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.

Miguel Ortiz


Miguel Ortiz has been on the Kids University Board of Directors since 2021.

He grew up in a small, rural town in central Florida. In 2010, he enlisted in the United States Air Force, where he would go on to serve for six years on active duty as an enlisted paralegal in the JAG Corps.  After his military service, Miguel moved to Austin, TX to attend the University of Texas School of Law. 

Presently, Miguel is an attorney in the real estate section of Jackson Walker’s Dallas office.  His practice focuses primarily on counseling clients on various legal issues pertaining to the sale, purchase, and development of real estate.  When he isn’t working, he’s enjoying spending time with his wife and three boys. His weekends generally consists of tee-ball games, Texas BBQ, and Longhorn football.


Travis Leissner


As an Associate Principal and architect at Hoefer Welker, Travis takes on many roles including strategic development and project delivery. Founded in 1996, Hoefer Welker is a multi-disciplinary architecture, interiors, planning, engineering, medical equipment, and clinical technology consulting firm. With 160+ professionals from offices in Dallas, Jacksonville, and Kansas City, their work includes healthcare, education, commercial, civic, and government projects across the U.S.

Travis is currently a member of the American Institute of Architects, he co-chairs the Urban Land Institute’s Council for Health, Education and Life Sciences in its DFW chapter, he is on the Board of the Fetal Health Foundation and a founding member of its think tank organization, he is on the interior design advisory board at Dallas College El Center School of the Creative Arts, and member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Association of Medical Facility Professionals.

Laura Redmon


Laura Redmon is a Marketing director (semi-retired) who has worked for more than 30 years for Trinity Consultants, an international EHS, engineering & science consulting firm based in Dallas. She has Marketing and MBA degrees from Texas A&M University and the University of North Texas, respectively. She has been a volunteer and supporter of Kids-U for many years and is actively involved in children’s ministry at her church. Laura is passionate about investing in children early to equip them for long-term success. She is a proud mom of three grown daughters and four grandchildren.

Betsy Berg


Before retiring recently, Betsy Berg spent 40 years working in the healthcare industry.  As a certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism / Public Relations and a Master’s degree in Health Administration, she lead the strategic and facility planning services for international healthcare architecture firms.  Betsy’s experience as an instigator, facilitator, strategist, problem framer, solution-focused thinker, and innovator was instrumental in working with hospital executives, physicians, community leaders and industry authorities.  Betsy also volunteers with Young Life’s YoungLives program

Jordan Linden


 (bio coming soon)


Former Chairman’s of the Board

Miller Johnson 

Brian DeVoss

Jon Killen

Julianna Bond


Advisory Committee

Ruth Brewer

Advisory Committee

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.

Murray Morgan

Advisory Committee

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

Barrett Podpechan

Advisory Committee

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.