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Life According to S



Steve Woodard’s future seemed decided by the S’s. Named Steve, his life path started in San Diego. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, got married to his college sweetheart, and went back for a master’s degree in Education. Seattle brought a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with an emphasis in Women’s


Studies and Multicultural Education at the University of Washington. A brief stint in San Francisco, followed by teaching with his wife in Spain, brought him back to Seattle. Shoreline, to be exact. Their family eventually moved to Mountlake Terrace...


In Snohomish County.


But Service is the S he identifies with most. He grew up as a military kid with his older brother Darrell and younger sister Aisha. Their father, a photographer with a penchant for fashion, spent his career in the Navy before becoming a small business owner with their mother. An appreciation for art and a commitment to service were inescapable. So was education. Their parents were each a valedictorian of their respective high schools. And in the Woodard home, two sets of encyclopedias existed on the bookshelf: Britannica editions sat beside a set that explored and affirmed African American history. Mainstream culture wasn’t ignored. It existed alongside, in tandem with, and because of Black history.

photo of three Woodard siblings
L-R: Steve, Aisha & Darrell Woodard (ca. 1982)

Steve “...always identified as Black. I lived in a home with Black-centric culture.” However, with an eclectic upbringing where education and service were valued, Steve and his siblings were often singled out as examples of what Black children were capable of or should aspire to. While he now realizes this praise was meant as a compliment, “it was really an injury because White and other Black people would ‘other’ you. It wasn’t a fair way to grow up. But,” he pauses, “life isn’t fair.”


So, he spent his career as an advisor and mentor, making education an equalizer rather than a distinction. During his tenure as Dean of Access & Completion at Edmonds College, he improved the student experience by removing barriers like long lines and confusion in the enrollment process. He also refined and ran onboarding summer bridge camps at both UW and Cal Poly to instill collaboration and pride within the student body. Suddenly, opportunities appeared for those who once felt college was an impossible achievement – often students of color or first-generation scholars. Frequently both.


One day, he was challenged to dream bigger, so he joined the Board of Directors at VOAWW. That wasn’t big enough. He resigned and immediately transferred to a full-time position at our organization where his mission of Service continues.

Reflecting on Black History Month and to prevent “othering,” Steve encourages everyone to “Remember narratives. Be accurate. Know better to do better. And keep history in front of you.” In other words, Study. It’s the S that lets us move forward. Together.

 

Dr. Steve Woodard is the Vice President of Community Engagement at VOAWW and serves on the city council of the City of Mountlake Terrace. He loves celebrating Black History, reminding us that it’s “more than Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass and George Washington Carver.”


For further study:


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