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].

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.

Neima Golnabi


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.

Morgan Mitchell


Mr. Mitchell is a second year MBA student at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business. During the summer of 2020 he completed his internship at Guggenheim Securities, working as a Summer Associate in the O&G Investment Banking division. Over the last decade, Morgan has been drawn to roles that help advocate the advancement of education.  His volunteer experience began during his undergrad days, where he participated in the Missouri Valley Conference’s “Just Read” program and continued upon graduation through volunteer work with Junior Achievement. Morgan has earned the right to use the CFA Charterholder designation, serves as the president for both the MBA Energy Club and the Cox Golf Club, and resides in Dallas with his wife Mattie and their chocolate labs – Mr. Bingley and Scout. 


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.

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.

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.

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.

Julianna Bond

Former Chairman

Ms. Bond works as an analyst for Slalom and 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.

Jon Killen

Former Chairman

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.

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.