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Serial Entrepreneur and ‘Artportunity Knocks’ Founder Ty Woods Turns Past Failures Into A Life of Purpose



Ty Woods1
Ty Woods

Ty Woods

*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.”

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Artportunity students practice photography

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 and

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Ross Williams: ‘Made It Out’ Author Recalls Escape from Streets of New Orleans and Corporate America



Ross Williams1
Ross Williams

Ross Williams

*Ross Williams made it out, and then he wrote a book about it.

Growing up in New Orleans’ 7th Ward can be rife with challenges. The horror stories far exceed the successful ones. Ross’s journey is an exception, and an exceptional one.

Surrounded by a solid family with community values, Williams attended Tulane University where he studied sociology. He has gone on to become the author of two best-sellers within an eight-month span.

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“Made It Out” is testimony not only to his journey, but also to the similarities of surviving the streets and corporate America. His follow-up book, “Crabs In A Barrel: War On Racism,” gives a different perspective on the phrase that focuses more on the barrel than on the crab.

Author is just one of Williams’ many hats. He is also CEO of Williams Commerce Writing Services, which aims to empower job seekers, authors and entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy of Ross Williams

Zenger News invited Williams for a Q&A session to learn more about his break-out book and journey of discovery.

Percy Crawford interviewed Ross Williams for Zenger News.

Percy Crawford interviewed Ross Williams for Zenger News (Photo courtesy of Percy Crawford)

Zenger: How did you break the cycle, so to speak, and make it out of the 7th Ward in New Orleans?

Williams: Really learned as much as possible. So, really learning what cursed prior generations and trying to avoid those same things. A lot of that came from learning from my parents who were born in the 1940s, so a lot of my family members are older. So, I have a lot of old-school values. I had the chance to learn about life before my era… I was able to accumulate all of that and just learn from every lesson or loss that I had in life and just never settled.

Zenger: What was it like growing up there and seeing some of the things you experienced?

Williams: I had a sense of pride about my community. My mother’s side of the family has been part of the St. Bernard, 7th Ward community since it was established back in the 1930s and 40s. A lot of people talk about the downfall of the neighborhood. Of course, I discuss that in my first book, “Made It Out,” some of the things I experienced. But one of the big things my neighborhood helped with was just building a confidence about myself and my abilities. At first it was basketball and then it became a swag with everything I do. I believe that I can be the best at whatever I put my mind to.

Zenger: What made you decide to even write a book?

Williams: Really to help other people to make it out of situations that they encountered. At first when I was writing my book, it was kind of like making it out of the inner city. I felt my lessons were applicable to any environment that you can grow up in. Like I said, learning from mistakes, gravitating towards positive energy, and learning from your losses. I really just wanted to give people the blueprint because halfway through the book it became about making it out of corporate America and becoming an entrepreneur. As of right now, even just picking up from there, I’m trying to show the world that I’ve made it out since then. Since the book, I’m still making it out.

Zenger: You actually make parallels in the book about the similarities of making it out of the street life and making it through corporate America. As crazy as it sounds, there’s not very much separation, is there?

Williams: I think in society with social engineering, a lot of us feel that if we are a different race or different religion, society has taught us that the next person is very different from us. And we can’t see eye-to-eye just because we come from different worlds or experiences. Gangstas and crooked people growing up in inner cities are no different than white collar gangstas. White collar gangstas are actually more cutthroat because at least in the neighborhood you know who to look out for. In corporate America, a lot of people have ulterior motives, but they project friendly energy. It’s not really necessary. It’s not these people need me to get by like in the neighborhood. It’s just out of malice. That’s why I feel like it’s grimier in corporate America because of how it’s presented to you.

© CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Zenger: It can be difficult to navigate that.

Williams: Right. And something that my neighborhood taught me, once I started communicating with people in higher level CEO positions or people that made in the upper six figures or north of that, just the intellect and growing the confidence once I interacted with these people, it’s like, “Oh, I can sit in these positions too.” A lot of times we are made to look at certain people as if they are superior to us, especially when we’re coming from inner cities. But we have the same abilities as those people. A lot of those people had easier routes to get there. That’s one thing of just gaining confidence along each step of your journey.

Zenger: Did you anticipate becoming a best-selling author and your books having the kind of impact that they have had?

Williams: Humbly speaking, my mom always told me, “Don’t step at all if you are going to half step.” So, I know the tears, the blood and sweat that I put into each project, or even a client’s book. I put that same energy towards everything. I’m very strategic and I move with a sense of urgency. I visualized the successes that I have had in my career so many times over and over, that all of the excitement is poured into the process each day. So, when it happens, I’m kind of militant about it, so I’m really not surprised. I really put my all into each thing and utilize my natural skillset. I haven’t been surprised so far.

(Edited by André Johnson and Judy Isacoff)

The post ‘Made It Out’ Author Recalls Escape From Streets of New Orleans and Corporate America appeared first on Zenger News.

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‘A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting’ Star Tamara Smart Stops by / WATCH




Tamara Smart1 - A Babysitters-Guide-to-Monster-Hunting

*Halloween looks a little different this year for most. If you’re looking for something to get your kids in the spirit of Halloween, the new Netflix film, “A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting is a good start.

The film stars Tamara Smart who plays Kelly Ferguson, a babysitter turned superhero. While she is babysitting the young boy she is watching after, he is abducted by the boogeyman, played by Tom Felton (“Harry Potter”). She (Kelly Ferguson) is approached by a secret society of monster-fighting babysitters that help her on her mission to rescue the young boy.

The film isn’t just about the spooky boogeyman and monsters but the movie also focuses on kids from different backgrounds coming together to help one another. Each member of the babysitters’ secret society has a special skill, skills that they could be made for having, or even bullied by others. We talked with Tamara about all the different elements of the movie.

“I love the fact that when Kelly meets with the babysitters, they all have these different strengths that when you put them together their invincible. I’m hoping that kids will each character to relater to in some way,” says Tamara.

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Smart also talks about the weakness that her character has and how the film shows her growth, from being bullied to becoming confident in who she is and not being ashamed of the things that make her, her. While watching this movie may confirm most kid’s fears about the boogeyman, but most importantly like Tamara said,  hopefully kids will see themselves in the characters and can help them overcome any doubts or fears they may have about themselves.

Grab the family and some popcorn, don’t forget the flashlight, and tune into Netflix to check out “A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting.” It’s streaming now.  


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Actress Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson Talks New Movie ‘A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting’ / Video




Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson

*Netflix has a new original film streaming to kick off the Halloween season. 

We mention that because most Americans are dealing with a new normal and going to haunted houses or going to the movies to see a new scary movie isn’t an option.

Enter “A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting” as an excellent option. On top of that, it is a good family-friendly film that everyone can enjoy at home.

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In the film a young teenager, Kelly Ferguson, played by Tamara Smart,  finds herself in a huge dilemma when the young boy she is caring for is kidnapped by the boogeyman.

She is approached by a secret society of babysitters who are dedicated to fighting monsters and the boogeyman. They all team up to help Kelly rescue the young boy. One of the babysitters, Berna, played by Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, is a genius. Which is good to see because it shows young girls it’s Ok to be a “nerd.”

Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson

Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson (A Babysitter’s Guide To Monster Hunting)

Without the help of Berna, the group would have a very hard time trying to find the missing boy. We got a chance to talk to Troy about her character and the importance of seeing a young girl of color being a tech genius. 

“I think now for there to be a film that’s about women supporting each other, a diverse group of women. I think that’s really important for young girls to see. Especially women of color who are intelligent and they’re not stereotypes,” says Johnson.

The babysitter’s society is mostly young girls and one boy and each one of them has a different strength. Kids watching this movie will get to see these kids from different backgrounds and different interests come together to help a person in need. The lure to watch of course is that it’s basically a scary movie, but there are also a lot of lessons that can be learned.  

“A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting” is streaming now on Netflix.  


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