Abused in foster care while placed in more than 40 homes over 13 years, Daniel Woodruff refused to let his life be limited.
Instead, the oldest of seven buckled down, set goals, focused on his studies and graduated with a marketing and entrepreneurship double major from Oklahoma State University last December.
Now the 24-year-old is working at the National Resource Center for Youth Services to encourage area business partners to hire current and former foster care youth.
He serves on several state and national committees, advocating for foster kids.
“I’m busy building community relationships with community partners in hopes of encouraging them to take a chance on an underpopulated, underrepresented population,” he said.
For the past four years, Woodruff has worked as a camp leader, helping foster care teens learn independent living skills during the three-day Oklahoma Teen Conference.
"We’ve stuck together through thick and thin in growing our business. People should really know that Daniel is resilient, hard-working and trustworthy. … He’s truly an amazing person to work with and should be your go-to if you want to get something done. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an obstacle or situation he hasn’t been able to keep level-headed with and overcome."
“I love getting to know the participants and trying to be a positive light in their lives,” he said.
Woodruff entered the foster care system at age 5 in Florida. His mother regained custody and moved the family to Oklahoma when he was in seventh grade. Within a few years, he and his siblings were back in foster care.
“My freshman year, I was worried about where I was going to stay and what I was going to eat, rather than my education,” Woodruff said. His sophomore year, he moved to a more settled foster home in Locust Grove, Oklahoma.
Thanks to an Oklahoma Department of Human Services program, he was able to work as a page at the state Capitol for minority floor leader Ben Sherrer.
“Honestly, I credit a lot of who I am today to that one year at the state Capitol,” Woodruff said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this is really cool to see all these grown men and women in professional attire rubbing elbows and talking about very important things.’ I had an opportunity to sit down with Rep. Sherrer and share a little bit of my story. He listened to me and showed that he cares.”
That’s when Woodruff decided to focus on improving his grades. Woodruff aged out of foster care and graduated from high school in 2015 before heading to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
“I was really, really scared to take the leap because I graduated with like 110 kids and came to college where there are 250 kids in a class,” he said. “I did really bad in school that year but realized that school was doable.”
Knowing that his younger brother was planning to attend Oklahoma State University, Woodruff followed him to Stillwater.
“We learned how to be brothers while we were here and relied on each other for emotional and vocal encouragement,” he said. “We didn’t have that in high school because we didn’t live with each other much.”
Sherrer advised him to study in the Spears School of Business. And it turned out that Woodruff loved his marketing and entrepreneurship classes. After all, he was already an entrepreneur.
His mother would buy candy bars, and Woodruff would resell them to classmates. He also remembers buying sneakers on sale and reselling them for a $30 profit.
During an entrepreneurship class, he met Pete Craver IV, 22, an aerospace administration and operations major. “He was answering all the questions, and I realized this guy was on a different level,” Woodruff said.
Their friendship turned into a partnership. They started Infinite Prints, a successful T-shirt embroidery company that was in the process of being sold at press time.
“We’ve stuck together through thick and thin in growing our business,” Craver said. “People should really know that Daniel is resilient, hardworking and trustworthy. … He’s truly an amazing person to work with and should be your go-to if you want to get something done. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an obstacle or situation he hasn’t been able to keep level-headed with and overcome.”
Woodruff would like to go into business with Craver again once Craver graduates in December. He also has dreams of running for state or national office.
But for now, Woodruff is busy enjoying being a husband — he married Shelby last October — and fighting for improvements to the foster care system.
“What I get from these kids is that there is hope,” Woodruff said. “It is really inspiring to see the kids who make it.”
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