Southwest Key


  • Texas Southern University in Houston
  • Citizenship Award, Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce in Austin
  • Board of Directors Chair, Hands of Healing

Hailing from a family of educators and service providers, Joella was inspired at an early age to help others and strengthen communities. Today, with more than 30 years of experience at Southwest Key, Joella has excelled in leadership functions across the organization, bringing a passion for serving those in need and changing lives for the better.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Texas Southern University in Houston, Joella began her career with Southwest Key in 1990 as a caseworker counseling children and parents in the inner city of Houston. Her promotion from caseworker to Program Director brought her to Austin, where she led the Outreach and Tracking Program, focused on providing counseling services to at-risk youth and opportunities that kept them at home and out of juvenile detention.

In 2000, Joella led the expansion of the Outreach and Tracking Program in Georgia, where she was promoted to Regional Executive Director. She managed a staff of 150 and oversaw the program’s operations in 19 counties. The program helped troubled youth remain in their homes with their families, build healthy relationships and stay in school. The success of her initial work was instrumental in laying the groundwork for growth in other models across the state, all designed to encourage meaningful change while holding youth accountable for their actions. Since starting work in Georgia, our case workers have kept tens of thousands of young men and women out of detention facilities and prison while enrolled in our programs.

Joella was promoted to Chief Operations Officer in 2007, overseeing day-to-day operations and managing a workforce of more than 7,500 employees across seven states. During her time as COO, Joella has focused on improving operational efficiency and outcomes for our staff, clients and funding sources. Joella served as Interim Chief Executive Officer for Southwest Key for two years.

Joella received the first annual Citizenship Award given by the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce in Austin, Texas. She chairs the Board of Directors for Hands of Healing, a residential and community-based foster care program for children in Baytown, Texas. Mrs. Brooks is an active member of her community, devoting time to her church and numerous civic and charitable organizations.