*When Ty Woods received her letter of admission to Life University in 2006, it marked the turning point in a life that until then had been marred by failure, regret and heartbreak.
The Los Angeles native and former at-risk youth was on the verge of giving up on the prospect of a better life. She had applied to multiple colleges and was rejected by every single one. That was until a desperate final attempt and a kind gesture from an admissions director sparked a transformative journey – one that would result in Woods becoming college valedictorian and later blazing a purpose-filled path in the worlds of education and business.
Today, Woods is paying it forward as the Co-founder and Executive Director of Artportunity Knocks, an Atlanta-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing high-quality STEM and arts education programs for students in grades K-12. Artportunity Knocks works with urban school districts and has served more than 23,000 students in 38 states. The organization continues to grow, expanding through online programming both nationally and internationally.
Woods is the epitome of the term “serial entrepreneur,” as she owns five other businesses. However, central to each of them is a strong commitment to giving back and championing the underdogs, the inner-city youth she says are too often written off by society and least expected to succeed. She believes that like her, they deserve for someone to give them a chance.
“There are pockets of LA here in Atlanta. That is why my facility is located in Adamsville, Southwest Atlanta,” said Woods. “I wanted to reach people who were like me. I want them to see that here is a successful woman in your neighborhood that was you. I came from the hood. I was in a gang. If I can do it, you can too.”
As a child, Woods gravitated towards the arts and athletics. She ran track, sang, acted, played the piano, and the drums. Still, in her teenage years, she succumbed to what many inner city youth fall victim to – the streets. At age 14, she joined a neighborhood gang along with other family members. However, because of her desire to remain connected to the arts and sports, Woods decided to finish high school and leave the gang.
Other family members, unfortunately, did not experience the same fate. Some dropped out of school, stayed immersed in gang culture and fell into drug use, and some have never recovered.
“That was the dividing factor between us,” Woods said. “We were in the same family, but we made choices to go in two different directions. What happened to me and my other family members was one of the reasons I became a youth mentor. I know it’s during those teenage years when people make life-altering decisions. This is why Artportunity is dear to my heart.”
According to Woods, Artportunity Knocks prides itself on offering culturally relevant activities and classes to youth who would typically stray away from education. The innovative curriculum keeps at-risk youth engaged and more excited to learn. It also keeps them off the streets.
Among its programs are the Beatknocks Academy, which teaches kids in music production, engineering and songwriting; and after school enrichment clubs like robotics, dance, painting and piano, among others. With arts programs being increasingly cut from school budgets, Artportunity Knocks proves why they are vital to actually keeping kids in school.
For Woods, her mission is simple. She wants to give disadvantaged youth an opportunity. She knows that the arts can save lives. They basically saved hers, for she would never have completed high school without them.
“I tell these schools that I want them to send me their roughest, toughest students so they can experience a level of creativity and positivity that allows them to start dreaming about something more than being a drug dealer,” said Woods. “It all starts with a dream, and I believe it is my purpose to help them to realize how those dreams can come true.”
About Artportunity Knocks Inc.
Artportunity Knocks was founded in 2009 with the mission to empower youth to make positive and smart choices while increasing opportunities in the Arts, Education, Community Service, and Bridging Cultures. Since inception, Artportunity Knocks has provided tens of thousands of STEAM education classes, teacher professional development, signature camps, afterschool programs, seminars and community service initiatives. The organization specializes in being a “one-stop shop” for over a dozen forms of Arts including: visual art, dance, acting, musical theater, filmmaking, music production, as well as a thought leaders and advocates for Arts Integration teaching models in Education.To learn more information about Artportunity Knocks and Ty Woods, visit www.artportunityknocks.org and IAmTyWoods.com.