Youth Programs
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Who We Are


Every year, refugees are welcomed to the United States, carrying dreams of a better life and the desire to escape political, religious and ethnic persecution, or the violence of war within their home country. Clarkston, a small town in the Metro Atlanta area, is a vibrant and diverse community with people from many different paths living and sharing life with each other. Around 60,000 New Americans have started their journey in what New York Times Magazine calls “the most diverse square mile in America”.

Pat Maddox, a resident of Clarkston, saw how the community was changing. Together with her church, she began a journey of walking together with refugee families and providing support in tangible ways as they transitioned to life in America. In 1995, Friends of Refugees was established as people were drawn to the vision of abundant life in flourishing communities alongside our refugee neighbors. They used their areas of personal passion and compassion to create programs that serve as platforms for New Americans to seize opportunities while bringing them into relationships that will help them flourish.

In 2005, Friends of Refugees registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Since then, it has grown to six programs including Refugee Career Hub, Embrace Birth Support, Refugee Family Literacy, Jolly Ave Garden, and Start:ME Business Accelerator.

Youth Programs has grown from Ms. Pat leading summer activities in local apartment complexes to out-of-school time (OST) programming for around 300 k-12th grade youth each year focused on building academic, social, and work-readiness skills.



Biblical Justice & Compassion

Our work is propelled by God's priority for the poor and marginalized as expressed in the Old and New Testament. Though the directors of Youth Programs are followers of Jesus, we serve refugee youth and welcome volunteers of all faith backgrounds.


Our Team


Director of youth programs

Brendon “B. L. A.” Barclay

The Director of Youth Programs leads the team responsible for growing successful engagement with youth in Clarkston, GA. Providing vision and strategy, hiring and developing a qualified team, and contributing to the development and deployment of initiatives for the Friends of Refugees. BLA served as the founding director of Sustaining Urban Villages Inc. (SUV) providing Team Building/facilitation, Environmental Education, and Service Learning. SUV's projects included many client partnerships: The Dekalb County School System, The National Wildlife Federation, AmeriCorps Alums, Hands On Atlanta/Network and Disney Parks', “Give A Day Get a Disney Day” and more. SUV developed support for urban forestry, via grants, programming, and volunteers/staff/interns for the City of Atlanta's OAC. The SUV/OAC project implemented a student technology transfer to conduct a sample census of the urban forest. AmeriCorps Alumni BLA was featured in a national TV commercial campaign promoting civic engagement titled "Be The Change." The Oprah Winfrey Network, commercial series, spotlighted BLA on Future Friendly Initiatives sponsored by P&G on OWN. BLA has served directly in Clarkston in the area schools as a supply teacher of every grade from K-12. Most recently he’s served with Positive Growth Inc. as Education Director working directly with refugee families of school aged children and those seeking to earn a GED, and Education Liaison working with Positive Growth’s Residential program for boys.

Fun Fact: “My wife and I have a middle schooler who makes us look young until you find out we have a C/O 2018 U of Iowa college grad and college junior at KSU. Our 3 boys insure there’s never a dull moment & plenty of fun.”


Summer Camp Director and Youth Services Coordinator

Emily Hutchins

Emily grew up in Lawrenceville, Georgia and graduated from UGA with her degree in human development and family sciences. She started volunteering with Friends of Refugees eight years ago, and has been on full-time staff since 2015. Emily is excited to share her love for Clarkston youth with staff and volunteers as the program grows and loves inspiring young people to make beautiful things through art.

Fun facts about Emily: She is an avid knitter and makes killer biscuits and gravy. We promise, ask her to make you some.


Middle and High School Site Coordinator

Mannie Otim

Currently a student at Georgia State University, Mannie got involved with Friends of Refugees as a student in our youth programs. After graduating, he joined our staff and supports our programming as the site coordinator for our 6th-12th grade youth mentoring program. To him, the most exciting part of his job is engaging with kids in the Clarkston community.

Fun facts about Mannie: His favorite snack is fruit gushers. He can juggle two balls, and he almost always has a flat tire on his car.


Kristopher Woods Site Coordinator

Laura Millican

Laura grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina and moved to Clarkston to attend Global Frontier Missions training school and received her degree in cross-cultural ministry in 2015. Living in Clarkston, she began volunteering and joined our staff in 2017. She now serves as our site coordinator for our elementary tutoring program. She is excited to see students holistically empowered from kindergarten to graduation, and believes that starting with the littlest students is a crucial part of that experience.

Fun facts about Laura: She’s obsessed with tacos in any form or flavor and is excellent at packing for a road trip.

Enrichment Coordinator

Tom Kim

Tom is originally from South Korea, grew up in Indiana, went to school in Ohio, and now lives in Georgia! Currently Tom is getting his Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Georgia State University in hopes to provide career and mental health counseling for third culture kids/adolescent/young adults. 

Fun fact: Tom is engaged to his beautiful fiancée and will be getting married in two different countries.

Food Coordinator

Sydney Bethune

Sydney grew up in Palmetto, GA and studied marketing at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. Sydney first volunteered with Friends of Refugees as a summer camp intern in 2016 and has volunteered on and off ever since. Sydney and her husband have called Clarkston home for the last two years and love the people and the shwarma. 

Fun facts: Sydney is obsessed with guacamole and has mastered the art of laughing at her own jokes.

Youth Advisory Council

- Mike and Amy Hutchins, College and Careers

- Lauren Tejkl, Healthy Food Experience and Education

- Marie Taylor, Program Outcomes

Chuck Shackelton, Communications

Adam Hoyt, Communications

 Want to join? Help us grow and be better through your support!

Thank you to the following donors and program partners that make what we do possible:

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Francis Hollis Brain Foundation

Larson Family Foundation