Artist, Actress, Activist

A is for … Artist, Actress, Activist 10-Year-Old Ally Woodard Makes a Difference By Lilly Rockwell

At an age when most children are preoccupied with watching a big purple dinosaur named Barney on TV, 4-year-old Ally Woodard was worried about a tsunami.

Not just any tsunami, but one that had just occurred in the Indian Ocean in 2004, killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying entire cities and villages.

Ally saw a news report on the disaster and immediately wanted to help.

“I guess I was a true activist at heart,” said the now 10-year-old Woodard. “The next day I went to school and told my pre-K teacher that I thought we should do a fundraiser.”

That fundraiser netted $300 for tsunami victims and sparked an interest in humanitarian efforts for Woodard, a fourth-grader at Van R. Butler Elementary, that resulted in her being the youngest person ever to receive an Enhance Perceptions in Culture (EPIC) Award from the White House Project.

The White House Project encourages women to run for office or take on leadership roles in their community. Woodard is no stranger to leadership, having delivered speeches urging her classmates towards activism at the tender age of 8, and traveling the world to meet with impoverished children as an ambassador of the Art Miles Mural Project.

“She’s always been like this,” explained Diane Woodard, Ally’s mother. “In pre-kindergarten they called her the little peacemaker. If any children were upset she would comfort and talk to them.” By age 3, she was greeting new children at the door to her school, and made sure to address adults with respectful titles — such as Miss Valerie.

Woodard has long brown hair and thoughtful brown eyes. Remarkably poised for her age, Woodard has public speaking skills that rival a seasoned member of a college debate team. Her speeches are so well crafted, one questions if she wrote them herself.

“I write my own speeches and my mom proofreads them,” Woodard said, setting the record straight. “I don’t really get nervous about public speaking. The only time I get nervous is before I do a theater production or when I have to speak in front of my peers.”

One of Woodard’s favorite projects is Art Miles Mural Project’s Shoes of Hope, which encourages American school children and adults to take donated new shoes, paint them and deliver them to poor children in other countries. As an Art Miles ambassador, Woodard traveled to Haiti to personally deliver shoes, along with other gifts.

“They just loved it,” Woodard said. “I was so happy and I had a great feeling inside that I just made these children’s day. They looked so satisfied.”

Woodard said when she grows up she wants to be an actress … or secretary of state.

It’s clear she has the poise of an actress, and surprisingly savvy political instincts.

When asked whether she thought American children were spoiled, for instance, Woodard paused and answered thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t say that. A lot of the friends I know when I told them about (my humanitarian work) are very willing to help,” she said. “I just think everyone hasn’t found the time or gotten the opportunity.”

In between juggling her school and humanitarian work, Woodard is involved in acting, takes a filmmaking class, and piano and voice lessons. That’s not all. She is the president of the Junior Beta Club and is a representative at her school’s student council.

Oh, and she’s also a straight-A student.

“My days are pretty packed,” Woodard said. “Right after school I either go to an activity or immediately start my homework.” Woodard said she’s very organized and it helps keep her many activities straight. She credits acting with helping her give speeches.

“I’ve had a lot of lessons and that has really paid off,” Woodard said.

Diane Woodard says she is a little baffled by her daughter’s ease with speaking and activism. She is quick to point out that neither she nor her husband “push” their daughter toward it, nor are they particularly involved in humanitarian work themselves.

“I am a much better person because of my daughter,” Diane Woodard said. “She inspires me.”