Washington attended Pennington-Grimes Elementary School in Mount Vernon until 1968. When he was 14, his parents divorced, and his mother sent him to a private preparatory school: Oakland Military Academy in New Windsor, New York. Washington later said, "That decision changed my life, because I wouldn't have survived in the direction I was going. The guys I was hanging out with at the time, my running buddies, have now done maybe 40 years combined in the penitentiary. They were nice guys, but the streets got them. " After Oakland, he attended Mainland High School, a public high school in Daytona Beach, Florida, from 1970 to 1971. He was interested in attending Texas Tech University: "I grew up in the Boys Club in Mount Vernon, and we were the Red Raiders. So when I was in high school, I wanted to go to Texas Tech in Lubbock just because they were called the Red Raiders and their uniforms looked like ours. " Washington earned a BA in Drama and Journalism from Fordham University in 1977. At Fordham, he played collegiate basketball as a guard under coach P. J. Carlesimo. After a period of indecision on which major to study and taking a semester off, Washington worked as creative arts director at an overnight summer camp: Camp Sloane YMCA in Lakeville, Connecticut. He participated in a staff talent show for the campers and a colleague suggested he try acting.