Tony Jordan is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of AWOL, All Walks of Life, Inc. He also serves as the Director of Programs enlisting dozens of youth into various series and classes each year. Tony founded the organization in 1997 as a student at Savannah State University. What first began as just a group of friends and like-minded individuals who all shared a love for Hip-Hop culture, grew into one of Savannah’s leading spoken-word and Hip-Hop based arts’ organizations.
After leaving school, Tony worked for 10 years with at-risk youth in mental health facilities and throughout the juvenile justice system. Frustrated by what he saw, and reminded of his own troubled childhood, Tony decided to focus AWOL’s mission on providing arts and education for local youth. Growing up, Tony’s father was absent from his life and after his brother was brutally gunned down in the streets of Washington, DC, his mother sent him to live with family members in South Carolina where he continued to get into trouble. Tony was expelled from the local high school and forced to attend and graduate from an alternative school. With the memories of his childhood haunting him, Tony wanted to do more. In 2003, alongside his wife, DaVena, who serves as the agency’s Executive Director, AWOL became incorporated as Savannah’s first federally recognized spoken word and Hip-Hop based youth development agency. AWOL provides youth with arts and technology based training programs during the hours most relevant to them, after school and at night, when they are statistically most likely to get in trouble. AWOL has provided services to over 300 youth and encountered thousands of proud parents and community members through youth art shows, theater productions and other events. AWOL has been featured in dozens of local magazines and two national publications, Edutopia, an education journal, and Black Enterprise magazine. In recognition of his work and the success of the organization as a whole, Tony has received The Comcast Leadership Award through the City Year program, and was also named to Georgia Trend’s “Best & Brightest” 40 Under 40 in 2008.
DaVena Jordan, (AKA-”BOSS LADY”) is truly the fuel that keeps AWOL running. Serving as the organization’s Executive Director since 2003, DaVena has written and managed well over a half-million dollars in public and private contracts in support of the mission of providing youth with a safe space. DaVena is a Savannah native and A.E. Beach High School graduate and was selected as Ms.Beach 1995 before graduating from Savannah’s beloved historically black high school. She was also selected as Ms. Freshmen 1995 during her freshmen year of college at Savannah State University before leaving to pursue her military career in the United States Air Force as an Aeromedical Evacuation Technician stationed at Charleston Air Force Base.
DaVena is a 2003 graduate of Armstrong Atlantic State University’s Health Science program. While searching for an internship before graduation, DaVena happened upon one of Savannah’s premier non-profit agencies, Union Mission, Inc. She was fortunate to land a job working for the agency prior to graduation as an HIV/AIDS Outreach Worker for the Phoenix Project and as an Outreach Coordinator under a Department of Human Resources HIV/AIDS prevention grant. As part of her graduation project, she decided to do a theatrical production for teens about HIV/AIDS awareness, subsequently named Hold Up. It was through this process that she was able to marry her love for Art with her knowledge of public health. The play was an instant hit with youth of the community and was even funded by the Pfizer Foundation for 3 years.
Upon leaving Union Mission, Inc. in 2005, DaVena embarked on a new public health mission once again using art as a way to reach at-risk youth and steer them to a better path in life. She decided to make a full-time commitment with her husband, AWOL’s CVO & Founder, Tony “Polo” Jordan, to All Walks of Life, Inc.
DaVena now has more than 7 years of experience in non-profit management to include grant writing, project management, program development, implementation and evaluation. Since becoming incorporated in 2004, AWOL, under Jordan’s leadership, has encountered more than 5,000 youth and community members through various programs and services. Jordan was responsible for growing the agency’s budget by nearly 500% in its first full year of operation and has since secured and successfully managed well over half a million dollars in public and private grants and contracts as well as established community partnerships and shared-space agreements, saving the organization more than one-million dollars over the last five years. DaVena fears youth are a “voiceless” population with little control over the development of policies and legislation that can have resounding effects on them, which his why she has chosen to be their relentless advocate.