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Tommy Wood Demonstrates Empathy in the Face of Adversity

Banner graphic of Tommy Wood

Some of Tommy Wood’s earliest memories are of being left alone for extended lengths of time as a toddler and having to be on constant alert. It wasn’t until the Thompson Valley senior was two years old that he was adopted by a loving family who gave him what he considers to be a second chance at life.

“My main motivation in life is because I was adopted,” Tommy says. “My parents gave me the chance to do the best I can instead of going down the path I would have gone down.”

Now that Tommy is about to graduate from high school, he is reflecting on some of the diverse perspectives he has had a chance to experience in his family. Tommy has three older brothers and three younger sisters spanning the ages of 7 to 33. His oldest brother has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair for his whole life.

“He can’t do everything that a normally functioning human can,” Tommy Wood says. “I’ve learned that you can’t take things for granted, helping him out with certain day-to-day abilities. It gives you a perspective. Some people might have harder times.”

Tommy’s two youngest sisters are Black and were also adopted. Seeing his sisters face the discrimination that many people of color face has taught him not to make assumptions about others.

“In public, if you take a look around when you’re out with your family, you see the different dynamics of families. Society doesn’t understand the full story,” he says. “You can’t always tell people the story, so you kind of live with it. You can only control what you have, not the external factors.”

Unyielding Determination and Personal Growth

Tommy Wood runs football across field as part of Thompson Valley High School Eagles game

It’s Tommy’s determination to do the best he can with the things he can control that have made him a successful student and member of the TVHS football and track teams.

“I was a very very small freshman, and had no physical attributes, but I had a love of the game and knowledge of the game,” says Tommy Wood, who has played wide receiver and safety on the Eagles’ team. “When COVID happened, it gave me the knowledge that I needed to work for my own future, even doing up to 500 pushups a day. No matter what your circumstances, you can always decide to get better.”

Tommy also found schoolwork challenging, but he was determined to do his best and succeed.

“From the very start, I realized you’ve got to work hard,” he says. “You’ve got to make it count to have a sustainable future. You have to take the hard classes. The main thing is working harder than everybody else. I chose the hard way.”

Learning Selflessness through Family

Tommy Wood pictured with his greater adoptive family

Tommy says he has learned a lot about being on a team from having a big family. He feels lucky to have learned from them the importance of working together.

“My family is really close,” he says. “Having a close family makes you feel like you always have people who love you. Throughout your life and your journey, you’re never on your own.”

It’s that family support he has received that has taught Tommy Wood to be selfless and caring for others in return.

Being on a team, your self is not the most important thing,” he says. “You’ve got to realize it’s not just about you.”

After college, Tommy plans to go to a four-year college and go into forensic science. Several members of his family work in law enforcement. It is a field in which he feels he can be successful, especially with the support of his family.

“I’m so thankful to my parents for taking a chance and adopting me,” he says. “And giving me the tools and resources to get to my full potential.”

Portrait of a Graduate


Shows empathy, compassion, and respect for others

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Class of 2023