At age 13, attending a boarding school for high-school students was the furthest thing from Larry Woody’s mind.
In fact, the only one he had ever heard of was the Choate Rosemary Hall because that was the school the Kennedy family attended.
Like most of the kids in his neighborhood, he was likely to attend the local public school, Baltimore City High School. That changed in 1968 when he received a full-ride scholarship to the prestigious St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH.
The scholarship fund, called “A Better Chance,” is dedicated to substantially increasing the number of well-educated young people of color.
At the height of the Civil Rights movement, it began accepting minority students by testing four high-achieving students that were Black, Hispanic and Native American. Woody was one of them.
Remembering a life shift
The Baltimore native who now calls Germantown home knew that attending the school would be a huge adjustment from the rough streets of Harlem Park. He just didn’t know how much, which is what he details in his memoir entitled “In Black In White.” Last month, he released the second edition.
Woody presents the book as a great way to talk about all the issues teenagers deal with when they are in school, regardless of their background.
“Even though it’s talking about this elite boarding school,” he said, “the experience that I am writing about is pretty universal for any kid that goes to a good school, who is a minority someplace and who had to adjust.”
Woody geared the book — which covers his life from 9 to 19 years old — toward readers in their teens to their mid-twenties. He said he tried to emphasize the value of hard work and education by exploring topics such as peer pressure, bullying, sports, ethnic tensions and over and under-achieving for minorities.
He also looks at the education gap which separated him from peers who had been going to boarding school their whole life.
“I was considered the smartest kid in Harlem Park Junior High, but I went from that to a school where I was the dumbest kid in my class,” he said. “The first year, I just couldn’t pass anything because it was incredibly hard.”
What he’s become
Today, Woody works for Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, a non-profit public-health institute which seeks to build healthier communities through partnerships with government, community-based organizations, local businesses and foundations.
He is a social worker for the “Focus on Fathers” program that helps men reconnect with their children by serving as an advocate during custody fights and other domestic affairs.