Senior speaks on child poverty at UN

Jocelyn Woods was inspired to pursue issues of social justice after being mentored by the Boys & Girls Club during her childhood.
(Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Woods)

Last month, on the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, senior Jocelyn Woods spoke at the UN Headquarters in New York City. 

Woods, who’s majoring in journalism, spoke on the issue of child poverty alongside Comic Relief USA, a nonprofit “built on the foundation that the power of entertainment can drive positive change.”

The event, which was called the 17on17Summit: Global Partnerships to End Child Poverty, aimed to accelerate progress toward ending child poverty by bringing together a diverse group of people with different perspectives, experiences and knowledge on the issue. The event highlighted the voices of young people around the world who wish to speak out on today’s global issues.

Before entering USC on a full scholarship, Woods grew up in a low-income community with limited resources. Through her youth, she found stability and support at the Boys & Girls Club, a national organization that provides after-school programs and classes for young people, especially from minority communities. It was this experience that taught her the importance of social good and advocating for the less fortunate.

“I didn’t have much during most of my formative years. I was a beneficiary of volunteer work,” Woods said. “I guess I credit my start to advocacy and giving back to others with my mentors at the Boys & Girls Club.”

During her freshman year, Woods was named National Youth of the Year of the Boys & Girls Club, an award given to a select few students who demonstrate outstanding leadership skills and a passion in the field of community advocacy. 

Adam Hernandez, unit director of the Boys & Girls Club, said he met Woods as a member of the club. 

“Tenacity is the first word that comes to mind. When she puts her mind to something, that’s how it’s going to be,” Hernandez said. “It doesn’t matter if she’s gonna fail 100 times in a row. She’s still gonna keep going at it. She has no fear. She’s willing to dive in and then take it from there.”

Woods also credits her mother with instilling in her a passion for advocacy and giving back on social justice issues, like issues of juvenile incarceration and child poverty. Woods emphasizes her dedication to the cause of universal education for the impoverished as a catalyst to break the cycle of poverty.

Woods is also involved with alternative spring breaks, which gives students the opportunity to travel the world and learn about global issues. 

“Through most of my years at USC, I went on alternative breaks,” Woods said. “Since I was a freshman I started going on them and then sophomore year, I started to lead them.”

Now though, she said she’s “just writing, directing and telling meaningful stories that will change the world.” 

Woods is currently writing her senior capstone thesis on facial recognition and Generation Z students. However, upon leaving USC, Woods plans to continue to improve the world around her.

“I’m just really passionate about making meaningful art that changes the world for the better, and there’s not that bridge between advocacy and growing up the way I did in the entertainment industry. So I just want to start there and go to law school,” Woods said. “I didn’t know for a long time that I even had a story that was worth telling. So I think everyone does, and once you find out that you have a story to tell, tell it and that’s how you make a difference.”

Ugonnaya Chilaka, a senior majoring in business administration who has known and lived with Woods since their freshman year, said Woods’ commitment to advocacy and community service is unique.

“[She’s] just a really hardworking and talented person. She’s done so many things, and the UN is just one in a long list of accomplishments,” Chilaka said. “For other people who are younger who are coming from backgrounds where they might feel like they can’t transcend their conditions, she’s an inspiration.”