By Robert Stitt
Woods lost both of his parents by the time he was 16. He didn’t fit in with the foster care system and became homeless, eventually moving from Texas to Wichita, Kansans, and finding a place to sleep on his sister’s floor.
“I was disappointed. Mostly in myself, but also at life. I felt like I wasn’t dealt a good hand to begin with,” he said. According to The Root, the time came when Woods was down to his last 30 dollars and took a stand; he gambled on himself by putting the money toward an education, applying to Wichita State University. He never actually believed that he would attain his dreams, but he wasn’t about to give up. To pay the bills, he got a job working the graveyard shift at a grocer and would run the 5 miles it took to get to school because he didn’t have a car.
“I looked at how empty my life was,” Woods said. “These students looked like they had it all together, even if they didn’t. They knew what they wanted out of life.”
Woods graduated this last December with a degree in communications and a desire to find a job in journalism.
The path wasn’t an easy one. He recalls feeling that he didn’t fit in. “In the beginning, I don’t think I was prepared to receive the learning and encounter the challenges involved with learning all the things that I had to,” he said. “I felt like an outcast. I felt like I didn’t belong. It was a struggle.”
Woods no longer has to run the 5 miles. He has a car and future. “I kept saying to myself, ‘I’ve got to try.’ I can’t be one of those parents who tells their kids, ‘I tried but I gave up. It was too difficult.’ I want to be one of those parents who tells their kids, ‘I tried, and I kept trying despite all obstacles.’”
Describing earning his degree and the pride he felt, Woods said “It was hard to hold my tears as I walked across that stage. To be considered stupid all your life and you graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree. … I don’t know about anyone else, but it was a triumph for me.”