A Greenpoint teen received a Remarkable Achievement Award Tuesday night at a City Hall ceremony honoring students who have overcome great personal or academic challenges on their paths to graduation.
Tashelle Woods, 17, certainly qualifies for such a distinction. It’s hard not to marvel at Woods’ accomplishments given her difficult family background and persistent health problems. The new graduate of the School for Legal Studies said that all the obstacles she overcame only made her more thankful for where she was standing today, at a podium next to Dennis Walcott, Chancellor of the Department of Education, speaking to her peers.
“Winning this award is a big relief,” said Woods. “Everything that I’ve been going through all amounted to something. All the effort that I put towards recovering and pushing myself to go to school, everything was worth it. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Woods is an outgoing (voted “most outspoken” in her school’s yearbook) and articulate young lady with a sunny disposition that belies her upbringing. Born prematurely with drugs in her system to drug addicted parents, Woods developed a myriad of health problems as a child, beginning with asthma and culminating in the removal of a cancerous tumor from her thyroid gland in 2008. Woods also suffers from Lymphedema, a disease that causes her joints to swell.
Woods’ father died when she was only two years old, and her mother five years later. As a result, Woods was primarily raised by her grandmother and currently lives with her best friend, Marquia Fox, a fellow graduate at Legal Studies, and her family. Woods praised her grandmother for motivating her to continue attending school and working hard at a time when Woods was ready to give up on her academic career. Woods is now the first person in her family to have graduated high school and subsequently, when she attends Alfred State University in the fall, the first to attend college.
“My grandmother has been my backbone for as long as I can remember and education was always key to her,” said Woods. “[My grandmother] and my best friend and her family, they just made everything a goal and put that pep in my step.”
Walcott introduced Woods to the audience at City Hall to hearty applause. He noted her resilience through the tragedies in her life, and congratulated Legal Studies’ assistant principal Sarah McCoy and college adviser Jennifer Alardo for helping to shepherd her towards a bright academic future.
“She is the embodiment of having life struggles and we believe she has the ability to succeed, and thanks in part to the continued support of her assistant principal and college adviser, she will now attend college” said Walcott, who stood next to Woods beaming as she delivered her speech.
Woods hopes to study biology or health science at Alfred State in hopes of becoming a pediatrician, noting she already has a leg up in that field having spent so much time around doctors throughout her life.
“I want to make a difference in other kids’ life like my doctors did in my life,” said Woods.
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