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Advocates for Action

As students, Mavericks experience everything they can—studying, participating in campus life, and engaging with their communities to effect change. As alumni, they turn that knowledge into transformative action, using the experience they gained as students to help the most vulnerable and underserved in our society.
by Jenny Gumbert • Portraits by Zerb Mellish

For 125 years, graduates of The University of Texas at Arlington have made significant and lasting impacts in North Texas and beyond. As students at UTA, they gained the skills needed to explore their chosen professional fields, while also learning what it means to be a part of a Community that Cares. It’s because of the University’s dedication to fostering an environment where both education and empathy are valued that numerous UTA alumni have gone on to lead in the nonprofit sector, using their combined intellectual and emotional knowledge to give back to their communities.

The following nonprofit leaders are just a small sample of the UTA alumni who are dedicating their lives to advocating for and improving North Texas communities. Some of them are motivated by personal experiences with trauma or injustice, while others have developed a passion for a particular issue through experience in their fields, but together they are taking action to make their region—and the world—a better place.

Carol Klocek

(’94 MS, Social Work)
CEO of the Center for Transforming Lives

Carol Klocek has dedicated her entire career to helping women with children move out of poverty and into stability, self-sufficiency, and prosperity. Her deeply personal connection with these women’s experiences drives her current work as CEO of the Center for Transforming Lives (CTL) in Fort Worth, Texas.

Growing up in a family of 10 in Arlington, Texas, she remembers the tension, anger, and fear that come with financial insecurity. She dreamed of a life where she would be self-sufficient and not have to rely on others.

“But my father told me I wasn’t capable of achieving my dreams,” Klocek says. “To go to college, I needed a scholarship, and he could not imagine that possibility. It’s hard to dream big when you feel so small.”

Klocek credits a neighbor with not letting her give up on her educational dreams.

“She saw the spark and desire that lived within in me to dream big and build a life filled with achievements,” she says. Klocek went on to not only receive her bachelor’s degree, but also two master’s degrees, including a Master of Social Work from UTA.

As CEO of CTL, she leads the 113-year-old organization in its work providing dual-generational services and intervention programs that work alongside women and children on their paths from poverty to self-sustainability. Each year, CTL helps over 3,300 people in Tarrant County with comprehensive services, including traditional childcare and Early Head Start, family housing, and trauma intervention services for women and children experiencing homelessness.

Though she has been with CTL for over a decade, the impact of her work still brings her immense pride.

“I think what stands out most is the experience of hearing from successful women, ‘If it weren’t for CTL, I could not have done this,’” Klocek says. “That’s what really fills my heart.”

  • Michael Coleman II, top, and Rickey Townsend

Michael Coleman II

(’14 BA, Advertising)
CEO and Co-Founder of Crowned Scholars


Rickey Townsend

(’16 BS, Interdisciplinary Studies)
COO and Co-Founder of Crowned Scholars

While many college students were watching TV and zoning out, Michael Coleman II and Rickey Townsend were finding inspiration for their future nonprofit organization, Crowned Scholars.

The duo met at UTA when Coleman was assigned as Townsend’s mentor, and they quickly developed a friendship. One night while watching an awards show celebrating Black women, they began talking about the absence of similar attention for Black men and how vital positive representation is to encouraging young boys to pursue their aspirations.

“We want to redefine for young Black boys what it means to be a Black man,” Townsend says.

In 2019, the North Texas natives launched Crowned Scholars with the goal of holistically developing middle-school-aged Black boys in Dallas, Texas.

“Most empowerment groups and organizations focus on high school or college students; however, students are becoming more and more impressionable at younger ages,” Coleman explains. “Crowned Scholars wants to step in to provide educational, personal, mental, and professional growth for the students we have the opportunity to impact.”

The curriculum for the program has two focuses: academics, with an emphasis on math, and healthy habits, a term that refers to important life skills. As a math teacher at Dallas’ Benjamin Franklin Middle School, Townsend knows the importance of a strong early math education.

“Our goal is to provide confidence to boys in math and for them to be algebra-ready once they leave our program,” Townsend says.

Adds Coleman, “Our overall goal is to nurture the growth of these young men and make sure they know they are kings.”

An unexpected bonus of their work with Crowned Scholars has been the opportunity to recruit nearly a dozen UTA students and alumni to their team, providing opportunities to their fellow Mavericks while giving back to the school that brought them together.

Madeline DuHaime McClure

(’97 MSW)
Founder and Former CEO of TexProtects

After nine years working on Wall Street, Madeline DuHaime McClure was ready for a change. Feeling unfulfilled, she decided to pursue a Master of Social Work first at New York University, then at UTA when her Texan husband moved them to Dallas. Now, with nearly 25 years of contributions and remarkable impact on the social work field, it’s clear she chose the right path.

McClure began her new career at Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center working with abused and neglected children. After several years, she noticed a need for reform and funding for Child Protective Services (CPS) in the region and the state. In 2004, she founded TexProtects to advocate for better policies, reforms, and increases in federal, state, and local funding with a focus on prevention, protection, and healing for Texas children.

“TexProtects was inspired by my professional experience healing abused and neglected children and working with CPS caseworkers,” says McClure, a UTA Distinguished Alumna. “I witnessed the inordinate demands put on them and their lack of support.”

Since its founding, TexProtects has assisted or led the passage of over 45 bills that have improved the CPS system and has secured over $145 million for family-support home visiting programs, such as the Nurse-Family Partnership, that prevent child maltreatment and currently service over 21,000 families across Texas.

“It’s rewarding knowing that through our efforts, thousands of Texas children have been spared child maltreatment, thousands of parents have been empowered by the programs we brought to Texas, an untold number of foster children have been successfully transitioned to independence, and thousands of CPS caseworkers have received the training, support, and recognition to improve their ability to care for abused children,” McClure says.

Liz Rayburn Curfman, LMSW

(’12 MSW)
Senior Director of Program and Community Engagement at Heart House

Though Liz Rayburn Curfman has served communities around the world, her heart lies with the residents of the Vickery Meadow neighborhood in Dallas, Texas.

“Working in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood has been a highlight of my career,” she says.

Curfman’s first encounter with Vickery Meadow was as director of the Northwest Community Center (NCC). Through her work with NCC, she connected with the neighborhood’s refugee and immigrant residents. She now works as the senior director of program and community engagement of Heart House, an education nonprofit that serves the same population.

Vickery Meadow has a large number of refugee and immigrant families and individuals, a group she says often grapples with instability and trauma. Heart House is a program that helps students who come from those backgrounds with mental health support through art therapy sessions, STEM activities, project-based learning, mindfulness meditations, homework help, and social emotional learning (SEL).

Curfman believes that providing students a space where they can explore, meet others their own age, and interact with adult mentors is vital to their success. Their program takes support a step further by utilizing SEL and mental health strategies to assist students in developing as a whole person.

“As a Licensed Master Social Worker, I know how important mental health and social-emotional development is for stability on the path to success,” she explains. “I am so grateful for how UTA’s School of Social Work prepared me for a long career in nonprofit management and making change happen at the community and city levels.”

Brittany K. Barnett

(’05 BBA, Accounting; ’06 MS, Accounting)
Founder of Girls Embracing Mothers; Co-Founder of Buried Alive Project

Brittany K. Barnett is reimagining what justice looks like. As an attorney and the founder of two nonprofits, she works tirelessly to transform America’s criminal justice system and bring hope to those who have been impacted by mass incarceration. It sounds like a lot to take on, but she’s just getting started.

As founder of Girls Embracing Mothers (GEM), Barnett works to empower girls with mothers in prison, breaking the cycle of incarceration and helping them lead successful lives with vision and purpose. GEM partners with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to take girls from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to visit their mothers in prison in Gatesville, Texas. Their curriculum includes art therapy and discussion of critical life issues.

“Mass incarceration devastates entire families and communities,” says Barnett, whose mother was incarcerated when she was younger. “I wanted to use my direct experience to empower women and girls impacted by maternal incarceration.”

Her other nonprofit, the Buried Alive Project, provides pro bono post-conviction legal representation to people serving life-without-parole sentences for drug offenses. The organization seeks to bring justice to those who they believe were unjustly sentenced to life in prison. Barnett co-founded Buried Alive with two of her clients, Sharanda Jones and Corey Jacobs, both previously sentenced to life without parole for first-time federal drug offenses and later granted clemency by President Barack Obama.

“Life without parole screams that a person is beyond hope, beyond redemption,” she explains. “Buried Alive is the only organization singularly focused on serving the unique needs of this community. The work we do is literally life-saving.”

Barnett also advances criminal justice reform as the founder of XVI Capital Partners and Milena Reign, social enterprises devoted to showing the world-changing impact that formerly incarcerated people can have when they have access to resources that allow them to thrive. She also published her first memoir, A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom, in September 2020. uta

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