Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight
bridges in Philadelphia
A. Smith '78 helps city kids become friends and develop skills
Several months after Carol A. Smith '78, became executive director
of Woodrock, a nonprofit youth development organization, she visited
its 10-acre camp in Sanatoga, Pennsylvania. She arrived just as
a three- day retreat for fathers and sons focusing on bonding and
parenting skills was concluding. "A group of fathers stood
up in front of their sons and told them they were slashing their
tires because they never wanted to leave," she says. "It
was definitely one of those goose bump moments that reinforced,
for me, the importance of what we do."
That retreat is just one of Woodrock's many programs that help
disadvantaged urban youth from Philadelphia develop healthy relationships
with family and friends, and build leadership, outdoor, and life
skills in a collaborative environment. Woodrock was founded in 1967
in response to racial tensions in Northeast Philadelphia as a summer
camp for boys. "The concept was that camping would be a good
way to build bridges with kids," says Smith. By working with
public schools and community organizations, Woodrock now serves
over 1,000 fourth through twelfth graders, both boys and girls,
per year through in school, after school enrichment, and summer
camp programs that promote interracial, interethnic, and intercultural
As executive director since December 2002, Smith raises funds,
develops and monitors its programs, and hires staff, among other
responsibilities. Woodrock's activities, says Smith, "arouse
children from their urban torpor and make them remember that the
world is full of interest and possibility for them. This is so key
for children who grow up in under-resourced circumstances."
On any given day a class of seventh graders in a local public
school might be conquering the "plate challenge"
they try to step on plates while keeping their feet off the ground
and touching their classmates; while ninth and tenth graders in
Woodrock's outdoor leadership force instruct fifth graders at a
local charter school about pollution. "We do a lot of activities
around teamwork and problem solving," says Smith.
A St. Louis Native, Smith feels strongly about serving the community.
A psychology major at Princeton who later earned her doctorate from
the University of Pennsylvania, she was a college administrator
for 18 years, most recently at Drexel, where she was a senior associate
dean of students and director of diversity. But in 1998 she transferred
her administrative skills to the nonprofit world, as executive director
of the Philadelphia Black Women's Health Project, where she remains
involved, and later as chief operating officer of Big Sisters of
Philadelphia, before coming to Woodrock.
"I hope that my experience and education can be used as a
resource to help bring information and opportunity to an under-resourced
community," says Smith. "Working this way connects me
to my community and that feels good."
By Kathryn Levy Feldman '78
Kathryn Levy Feldman '78 is a freelance writer in Bryn Mawr,