The room fell silent as the master of ceremonies masquerading as a judge, read the charge to the defendants. How did they plead? Not guilty of a lack of school spirit. Ten black boots rhythmically stomped together to represent and show spirit for the class of 2008 in the 2006 Dillard University Class Step-Off. At the end of a high impact performance, the crowd cheered at decibels so loud that when the judge read the verdict no one could hear it. The judge announced the drop of all charges and the lady steppers of 2008 were declared the winners of the 2006 Dillard University Class Step-Off. Stephanie Woodard, a rising junior and political science major, experienced this story first hand as one of the winning steppers.
Stepping out was nothing new to Stephanie. She stepped up in her home community of Houston, TX, and aided the Red Cross when she raised $600 at a car wash for Katrina victims.
Strategically made, Stephanie’s steps from home allowed her to enter Dillard as a university scholar, become 2004-2005 freshman class attendant, 2006 sophomore class vice president and vice president of the Pre-Alumni Council.
In Stephanie’s university community, she volunteered in several non-profit organizations. Stephanie said that the two volunteer programs that were the most memorable were her visits at the Lazarus House and the New Orleans Mission.
“The Lazarus house was moving because these were AIDS patients and we tried to make them feel as warm and as comfortable as possible because they may not be here next month,” Stephanie said.
At the New Orleans Mission, Stephanie said she saw people from all walks of life suffering from substance abuse. What she recalled as her most memorable experience was when she saw a beautiful painting that was unfinished. The program director told her that the artist was a recovering addict at the mission and he relapsed and died before he could complete the painting.
Selected from several students who had to be in high academic standing, Stephanie rose to the opportunity to represent Dillard University and the United States when she became a Melton fellow.
“Melton has changed my life in the respect that I have been exposed to the world in a year’s time,” Stephanie said.
One of the most important things Stephanie said she has learned so far from being a Melton fellow is that even though people come from different countries and cultures, young adults want and need the same things and have a lot in common.
Last semester, Stephanie took another big step by leaving Dillard in the middle of the second spring session to participate in the Institute for International Public Policy (IIPP) in Atlanta. Stephanie’s study abroad program is unique because the IIPP program not only educated her on foreign policy, but also funds her two-semester study abroad program to Senegal, Africa. In addition, Stephanie had to balance IIPP and finishing her second spring semester at Dillard online.
According to Stephanie, the purpose of IIPP is to help minorities who are interested in foreign affairs get on the right track to reaching their goals. Also participating in the program are students from Stanford University, Vassar University, Spelman College, Morehouse College and Boston College.
“They bring in instructors who are enlightening and passionate about what you want to do, and very nurturing. They teach me how to make institutional change and what type of policy is needed to help change overseas,” Stephanie said.
According to Stephanie, IIPP paid for all her books, a meal plan, room and board, gave a $1200 stipend and trips to Think Tanks located in New York and Washington, D.C. that contain organized ideas of development that are recommended to the government.
Stephanie left her training at IIPP and headed to Dakar, Senegal, August 20, 2006. While in Dakar, Stephanie is staying with a French-speaking host family.
“I learned that no matter how foreign the culture, giving is a universal concept. I want to learn about African culture, African conflict and how we [the U.S.] can put Africa on the map,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie said she feels Senegal should get more involved in the global market since they already represent Africa in the United Nations.
Stephanie not only stepped up to the challenge of being a leader here in the States, but she has also spread her leadership capabilities in Senegal. In Senegal, there is a Non-Government Organization (NGO) called Centre International pour la Promotion du Leadership Feminin (CIPFEM). It offers tutoring and guidance to Senegalese girls from 9 to 14 years of age.
“After doing research, a group of students and I discovered that if more women were educated and empowered, they could facilitate their escape of a severely marginalized society,” said Stephanie. “With God’s blessing, our vision will come to pass.”
Stephanie’s educational journey has left faculty and students singing her praises and her friends singing the blues. “I miss Stephanie. She was that positive influence on a lot of the great decisions I’ve made in my life,” said Alafia Stewart, a junior sociology/ criminal justice major from Oakland, Calif.
After a year of study, Stephanie will return to the United States May 2007, and continue her education at Dillard in the fall of 2007. After graduation in May 2008, Stephanie said she plans to enter graduate school, but in order for the IIPP program to pay, Stephanie must gain two years of experience through internships and attend the Junior Policy Institute next summer.
For graduate school, Stephanie said she will attend Middleberry University, the top school in the United States for language.
Climbing so many stairs, Stephanie manages to maintain a 3.8 GPA. Stephanie said her long-term goal is to bring about world peace and aid in the development of underdeveloped countries. With strides of success, Stephanie Woodard said she hopes to solve problems in her local, scholastic, national and global community.