Developing at-risk youth
“Steve Woodworth represents the finest achievement of Northwest Nazarene University,” stated Dr. Jerry Hull, NNU alumnus (’60) and former professor of social work (1978-2007). “Steve has invested 37 years serving Idaho’s needy, vulnerable, and at risk youth. Throughout the years Steve has worked with hundreds of professionals, community leaders, and political and judicial entities to save youth and families, helping young people set a course for responsible citizenship.”
Coming to NNU in 1973, Steve Woodworth approached his education with the desire to help persons in need. “Working on behalf of the less fortunate appealed to me,” commented Woodworth. “I decided to major in social work because I felt it was more action oriented than sociology or psychology.”
Besides studying social work, Woodworth was heavily involved on and off campus. He served as sophomore and junior class president, played on the baseball team, participated in Circle K Club and N Club, took part in many student events and intramural sports, and interned in the community. The relationships and community Woodworth found during his college experience proved to be impactful for his future.
“Over the years, I’ve come to the realization that NNU provided a safe emotional environment, friendships, education, social experiences and challenges that helped me develop the self-esteem I lacked growing up and the confidence I needed to become a leader,” explained Woodworth. “At that time in my life, I needed to be part of an accepting community—people I could look up to—and the spiritual fellowship that NNU provided for me.”
Following graduation in 1978, he began his career in the field of juvenile justice. Over thirteen years, Woodworth worked as a chief juvenile probation officer, state coordinator of Idaho’s Youth Rehabilitation System, and chief for Idaho’s Juvenile Justice Bureau. During this time, he was appointed by Governors Evans and Andrus as the administrator for Interstate Compact for Juveniles, a member of Idaho Commission for Children and Youth, and a member of Incarceration Work Group. He also earned his Master of Public Administration from Boise State University in 1988.
In 1991, Woodworth left his position at the Juvenile Justice Bureau and accepted his appointment as regional director for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. When this appointment ended in 1994, he transitioned from government to the private sector becoming director of operations for Idaho Youth Ranch (IYR). Woodworth was promoted to executive vice president in 2000 and to CEO in 2007.
“Under Steve’s leadership, IYR has effectively transitioned from its traditional role as a contractor for the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections, to an independent organization providing a continuum of services to Idaho’s at-risk youth and their families,” stated Rick Alis, president and COO of IYR. “In over 40 years of military service, state government service, and private law practice, I have never seen a more remarkable display of leadership.”
As CEO of IYR, Woodworth has been responsible for the strategic direction and fund development of the organization whose mission is to “provide at-risk and troubled youth a bridge to valued, responsible and productive future.” This organization creates change through therapeutic and educational services of adoption, crisis counseling, family therapy, residential treatment, workforce training and graduate assistance, as well as through social enterprises of e-commerce business, a vehicle dealership and 30 thrift stores.
In June after a 10 year tenure, Woodworth stepped aside as CEO to take on a new role for IYR as corporate ambassador. He will be raising capital contributions and ensuring a smooth transition for new leadership in this support, mentoring and outreach position. He remains wholeheartedly committed to the vision of IYR.
“I’m passionate about strengthening the safety net for our kids through the creation and execution of a shared vision among nonprofits, donors, volunteers and community leaders,” added Woodworth. “A vision that includes sharing knowledge, expertise and resources; solving problems together; and building on each other’s strengths. A vision where it’s easier for kids and their families to get help earlier and where there’s no longer a stigma to seek help.”
As a result of his distinguished career and honorable work for the youth and community of Idaho, Steve Woodworth is the 2017 Alumnus of the Year.