Niah Woods doesn’t have to look far to find motivation.
“My name literally means purpose,” said Woods, a Summit Country Day graduate.
In the language of Swahili, the name “Niah” does represent purpose.
“I feel like my number one purpose in this world is to make an impact on people and to help people that need it – anybody that needs it,” explained Woods.
Woods now plays basketball and runs track at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“I always said, growing up, if I can’t do two sports in college, I don’t want to go to that school,” recalled Woods. “Howard gave me the opportunity to pursue that dream.”
It also gave her the opportunity to pursue a purpose beyond sports.
“What she’s doing now is what she’s meant to be doing,” said Beth Simmons, the basketball coach at Summit Country Day in Cincinnati.
A desire to help others is something many saw in Woods from a young age.
“She’s very passionate, very helpful – wants to help people. She wants to be involved with people," Simmons said.
Now, the rest of the world is finally noticing that same thing.
“To hear Billie Jean King say my name; it was probably one of the greatest honors I’ve had,” said Woods.
Woods received one of the highest honors in sports – an ESPY award – for her work with a program called The Grassroot Project.
It starts with college students being trained on three core topics: sexual health, physical health/nutrition and mental health.
“With that training, we go to charter schools in D.C. and teach students there that same curriculum through activities and games," Woods said.
Basketball may be the game you know Woods best for, but those games she plays with middle school-aged kids are the ones that truly define her.
“My favorite part about being in Grassroot is the impact I’ve had on the kids,” said Woods.
“She’s always had a purpose. She’s always known her purpose,” explained Simmons.
After all, her name does stand for purpose.