“I’m hopeful that systemic change will take root, offering the promise of the American Dream to a subset of our society for whom that dream remains particularly elusive.”
In honor of Black History month we welcome James Woody, Executive Director of Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys. The Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys is an Episcopal School for children of low-income families that welcomes boys of all faith traditions. James talks about how the Bishop T Walker School?exists uniquely in the DC education landscape and how he’s working to provide high quality education to boys of color in South East DC.
- What motivated you to begin working with your organization?
Boys of color have disproportionately fallen through the cracks of the education system as evidenced by high suspension rates, limited academic proficiency and unacceptably low graduation rates. As a native Washingtonian who grew up at a time when a high quality education was available throughout all quadrants of the city, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to effect positive change for boys who are growing up in neighborhoods that remind me of my own.
- What exciting change or innovation is on your mind?
Young men with whom we have worked since pre-K or kindergarten will be entering middle school in the fall. I can’t help but notice that their coming of age is happening at a time when social activists are promoting the message that their lives do matter. I’m hopeful that systemic change will take root, offering the promise of the American Dream to a subset of our society for whom that dream remains particularly elusive.
- Who inspires you (in the philanthropy world or otherwise)? Do you have a hero?
Bishop Desmond Tutu’s unwavering commitment to peace, justice and universal human rights is a constant source of inspiration to me. His heroic and prophetic voice in the midst of some of the world’s most intractable challenges has made an indelible impression on me.
- What was your most interesting recent project/partnership?
I’m really excited about our on-going partnership with THEARC that is on track to have our upper primary and middle school students in a brand new building on their campus in the fall of 2017. It’s been fascinating to work with diverse disciplines like educational programming, finance, fund development and architecture in support of the project.
- What is the single greatest challenge that your organization faces (besides finances) and how are you dealing with this challenge?
As a private school in a community in which the educational conversation tends to revolve around public and public charter offerings, we must constantly work to differentiate ourselves while at the same time collaboratively participating in the positive efforts that are taking place in support of students whose success is tied to a unified community effort on their behalf. Working with the system, while remaining outside it requires agility, flexibility and resourcefulness.
- What advice do you have for other people in your position?
If you are convinced your mission is critical, pursue it relentlessly, without regard to popular opinion or trends. At the same time, never succumb to the myth that you are indispensible. Take care of your health and well-being and mindfully nurture the relationships that sustain you.
- What’s next/coming up for you?
Latin guitar lessons — there’s a syncopated rhythm percolating inside me that I’m dying to share with the world.