LaTonya Gates-Boston has earned her metaphorical PhD in service to Atlanta in opening PAWKids, an enrichment program for children on Atlanta’s Westside. By age forty, LaTonya had already invested decades in strengthening Atlanta, but her life could have easily gone in another direction.
LaTonya was born in a state prison to a heroin-addicted mother. Her grandmother raised her, along with several other children, and LaTonya found herself as a child understandably struggling with learning, social and emotional problems. After having a son her senior year of high school, she resolved to raise her son and change her family’s pattern.
So, how did a woman with such a difficult start in life become a mentor and leader? She credits her life accomplishments to God, the prayers of her grandmother, determined work, and the support of strong women and men, such as Chuck and JoElyn Johntson and Derrick Lockwood, from Atlanta Youth Academy.
In fact, LaTonya’s career involves employment with many other CityLights friends, including Neil Shorthouse of Communities in Schools and Walton Apartments. Her son, who is now 24 and a Morehouse graduate, is the first alumni employee of Atlanta Youth Project, working with Larry Teem.
PAWKids (Paradise Atlanta Westside Enrichment Program) opened in early 2015 in the Westside of Atlanta, between Woodson Elementary and Grove Park Elementary, to help children find hope.
The home PAWKids occupies was previously a crack house with prostitution. Now, it serves twenty-four children with afterschool and weekend enrichment, from medical care and haircuts to field trips and prayer walks. LaTonya even turned the former porn-recording studio into a music room where children and learn to play and record their own music. Though they don’t reside here, the children think of the house as their home, as LaTonya treats the children like her own and points them toward God’s love.
Please be praying for PAWKids, LaTonya, her husband Carlos, and her “imprinters” (volunteers who leave an imprint on the children) as they develop roots further into the community and are connected with resources to sustain their work.
For more information, go to www.pawkids.org. PAWKids also has a great five-minute video on YouTube where you can hear the PAWKids story: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DkTL_3QSVY
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- AMEN, Inc. (2005)
- Atlanta American Red Cross (2005)
- Atlanta City Council (2015)
- Atlanta Community Food Bank (2006)
- Atlanta Development Authority (2005)
- Atlanta Housing (2006)
- Atlanta Intercultural Ministries (2005)
- Atlanta Mission (2011)
- Atlanta Youth Academy (2007)
- Beltline & Proposed Westside Park (2011)
- Buckhead Christian Ministry (2006)
- Buckhead Church (March 2016)
- Carter, with Bob Peterson (2017)
- Carver Bible College (2006)
- Carver Market (2015)
- Carver YMCA (2009)
- Charis Community Housing (2012)
- Childspring (2007)
- Club E (2015)
- City of Refuge
- Communitites in Schools (2005, 2007,2011)
- Covenant House (2004)
- Covenant House (2013)
- Create Your Dreams (2005)
- David Allman and Friends (2004)
- Dream Center (2015)
- Families First (2006)
- FCS Urban Ministries
- Fort McPherson (2013)
- Frazer Center (2012)
- Jars of Clay Outreach (2006)
- Georgia Student Leadership Forum
- Good Samaritan Health Center (2005)
- Grady Health Foundation (2014)
- How People Grow (2012)
- Justice (2012)
- L.E.A.D. (2015)
- The Leaders Lyceum
- Life Lessons (2006)
- Mary Mac's (2009)
- MedShare International (2004)
- My Sister's House (2016)
- PawKids (2016)
- Purpose Built Schools (2016)
- SafeHouse Outreach (2005)
- Saint Vincent de Paul (2015)
- Sears Building Becoming Ponce City Market (2012)
- Theatrical Outfit (2011)
- Walton Westside (2014)