April 18, 2005

Brown's Chazz Woodson Is Obviously In A Class By Himself

April 18, 2005

Providence, RI - Sunday, April 17, 2005

Scorers are often selfish. In sports such as basketball and lacrosse, they want the ball. They want to shoot. They want to put the ball into the net. The same holds true in hockey. Scorers don't want to pass, they want to shoot, they want to put the puck in the net. Racking up points is what scorers do. It's who they are.

Chazz Woodson, the leading goal-scorer on the Brown lacrosse team, is an exception. On the field, and most certainly off it, he is selfless, not selfish.

The senior attackman is frequently double-teamed, as he was Tuesday night at Harvard. When he is, he passes to someone with a better scoring chance, as he did in dishing out two assists in a 12-3 rout of the Crimson.

But a better example of how Woodson thinks of others first is what he did as a junior in the fall of 2003, when he spent a semester teaching at a public elementary school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He'll graduate next month with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown, with a concentration in Education, and plans to spend the next two years in the Teach for America program.

"I really enjoy working with kids," Woodson said. "I'm sort of a big kid myself."

He's not all that big -- only 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. But, blessed with excellent speed and quickness, elusive moves and fine hand-eye coordination, Woodson has been the Bears' leading scorer the last two seasons.

He had 32 goals -- second-best in the Ivy League -- and 16 assists in 14 games in 2004, and has scored a team-high 17 goals, with 6 assists, in 8 games this year.

He's much improved from his freshman year, when he arrived at Brown from Blue Ridge Academy and, before that, Norfolk Academy, as a talented, but unpolished, player.

A three-sport athlete at prep school in Virginia -- he was a tailback in football and a point guard in basketball -- Woodson moved from midfield to attack when he came to Brown.

"In high school," he said, "I was a lot quicker than just about everybody. When I got to college, I could make a move and get by somebody, but then two guys would be waiting for me. I wasn't used to that.

"I was never a great shooter. But I'm getting there. I've done a lot of work on it."

His statistics clearly show that. But it's the work Woodson has done with underprivileged kids that makes him truly special.

"I've always been interested in helping the black community, in particular, and the underserved community, in general," he said. "I was very fortunate to be able to go to Norfolk Academy. I'm very fortunate to be at Brown. Most kids don't have those kinds of opportunities. I feel obligated to take this opportunity to help out."

Eager to help out less fortunate kids, and looking for a "change of scenery," for a semester, Woodson became involved with the Brown-based Venture Consortium in the fall of 2003.

The Venture Consortium is a group of private, liberal arts colleges and universities dedicated to the development of innovative programs that complement the liberal arts curriculum.

One of those programs is the Urban Education Semester, which introduces college students to the complex issues facing urban education by offering supervised fieldwork in a diverse selection of classrooms in New York City public schools.

"I was in P.S. 20 -- a large elementary school where the majority of kids were Hispanic," Woodson said. "There were some African-American kids, and some Asian-Americans. There were a lot ESL (English as Second Language) kids, and about 98 percent of the students were eligible for free lunch.

"I was in a fourth-grade classroom. I had a host teacher, but pretty early on, I was up in front of the class a whole lot. I'd worked with kids a lot before. That part wasn't new. But having to get things across to them, to make sure they were learning -- not just school lessons, but life lessons, too -- that was different, and humbling.

"At the start of the year," said Woodson, "21 of the 29 kids were below grade-level in reading -- 11 of them at the second-grade level. By the end of the year, only one didn't pass the state test for fourth-graders."

Last spring, Woodson organized a field trip to Brown for his class from P.S. 20.

"They came up for the Princeton game with about 8 to 10 parents and a couple of teachers," he said. "They loved it. They toured the school and got to know a little bit about Brown."

Woodson's experience in New York has prompted him to apply for the Teach for America program -- a two-year commitment to teach in low-income, rural and urban communities.

"I'd like to work in Houston," Woodson said. "Or Miami. What I'm really trying to do is get out of the cold."

He jokes about it. But what Woodson really is doing is trying to help lots of underserved kids come in from the cold.