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New leadership at Barksdale Boys and Girls Club
Donald Freeman

Vote in the Online Contest: Children write essays for a chance at a custom playhouse (Nov. 18, 2011)

The Barksdale Boys and Girls Club recently welcomed an influx of new leadership, including a new Director, Teen Center Director, and Education Program Director.


Ty Woods, Director

A guiding principle for Ty Woods, as she’s worked her way up from homeless teen to non-profit director and MBA graduate, is what she calls a "spirit of excellence."

She strives for excellence in all she does and tries to bring this out in others, she said. If those around her don’t share this spirit, she finds a way to instill it in those she works with.

"I call myself a dispenser of hope," she said.

Woods, 32, began in her position of Director at the Barksdale Boys and Girls Club on Monday and comes by way of directing a youth arts program called "Artportunity Knocks," that had worked with schools and Boys and Girls Clubs in Cobb County. Prior to that, she was an AVID teacher in the Cobb County School District, and graduated from Life University as the valedictorian of her class.

A native of south Los Angeles, California, Woods grew up without much emotional support.

"I was told I wasn’t good enough," she recalled. "I would say I’m going to be big and famous."

Her freshman year of college in California, she went through a traumatic experience where she was raped at gunpoint and left for dead. After that trauma, she left school, lost her job, her car, and her apartment. She began to believe the naysayers and gave up on life for a time. She eventually found herself in a program for homeless youth where a social worker who believed in her encouraged her to help other teens. Woods found herself becoming a peer counselor. She began doing outreach activities and was sent out nationally to do encouragement talks for teens.

Her passion for teenagers continued after she met her husband, Chris Woods. The couple mentored neighborhood teens while they lived in the Virgin Islands and after they moved to Georgia five years ago.

Even now, among her goals and focus areas is to develop the teen center and figure out why teen membership levels drop off after about age 13. The teen center has capacity for about 150, but there are only 25 members.

"The key is making it fun for teens, and the teens will bring other teens," she said.

Another area she would like to see brought up to a level of "excellence" is the access to computers and cutting edge technology for club members.

Woods described herself as a director who would be out in the community and not afraid to fundraise as well. But despite those activities, it’s the difference in a youth’s life that motivates her.

"That’s my paycheck: teens that I’ve helped doing well for themselves," she said.

To contact Woods, email her at


Donald Freeman, Education Director

Donald Freeman came to the Barksdale Boys and Girls Club as an AmeriCorps volunteer six months ago and was hired as a program assistant in August. He was hired to the role of Education Director after the former Education Director left for another position.

The 25-year-old Georgia Southern University alumnus is about to receive his second bachelor’s degree from the school – a bachelor of science in child and family development. His first degree in 2009 was in history.

"After school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, if I was going to become a teacher or do law school. I knew I wanted to work with children and families in some capacity," Freeman said.

He applied to the Peace Corps but was told he had no experience in working with child and family development. So he went back to school.

"I come from a single family household. I’ve seen my mom struggle to take care of three boys." He said he wants to help lower income families break the cycle of poverty.

As Education Director, he plans to make technology the focus of his effort along with continuing the many programs in place at the club.

"My plan is to make technology the epicenter of this club. I want our children to be very competent with software, get them prepared for the workforce."

He plans to start a tech club, a robotics club. The club currently has 70 computers.

To contact Freeman, email him at


Jonah Katende, Teen Center Director

Jonah Katende comes to the Barksdale Club after working with teens several years in the Kids Peace program in Bodwon, Ga.

He said there’s never a dull moment in working with teens. "I get tremendous satisfaction in working with kids. No two days are alike."

Growing up in Riverside, Calif. with an alcoholic father, Katende counts himself lucky that his mother reached out to make sure he was surrounded with positive male role models.

"She would contact friend and classmates parents, an uncle, somebody. If I couldn’t have a positive male role model in my life, there would be someone coming around to take me out to a ball game."

"I wanted to give it back. I wanted to pay it forward. I knew how important it was for youth to be around positive adults."

He moved to Georgia to attend University of West Georgia on a football scholarship, where he was team captain.

He plans on focusing on the College Bound program, to help teens set high goals for themselves and know how to reach those goals.

To contact Katende, email