Lang Scholar A'Dorian Murray-Thomas '16 Founds SHE Wins

A'Dorian Murray-Thomas '16 with SHE Wins participants

A'Dorian Murray-Thomas '16 recently led a SHE Wins outing to a healthy children's summit at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Photo by Robert Sciarrino, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

UpdateGlamour Magazine: 2016 College Woman of the Year: A'Dorian Murray-Thomas '16   

"When I was seven my father was killed while leaving his Newark convenience store. I was devastated; I still remember how he tucked me in at night. My education became the ultimate safe haven. Fast-forward to my junior year at Swarthmore, when I received a $10,000 grant to do something I was passionate about. My mom said, 'You know, Newark doesn't have a program helping girls affected by violence.' That was it—all the emotion I had from when my dad died, I poured into She Wins!, a safe space for Newark girls who've been impacted by violence. 

Read the full story.

The Star-Ledger: 'SheWins' is Newark college student’s dream for girls

A'Dorian Murray-Thomas ['16] had a chance to study abroad in Madrid this summer, which she says would have allowed her to become fluent in Spanish.

But the senior from Swarthmore College, a small, liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, passed up that opportunity to pursue what's turning out to be her niche.

Murray-Thomas, 20, is passionate about civic and social responsibility, and that's why she chose to stay in Newark, her hometown, to mentor a group of city girls whose lives mirror her own experiences.

"This was of chief importance,'' she says.

Like Murray-Thomas, many of the 12- and 13-year-old girls have lost family members to violence. 

...

"SheWins" may have started this summer, but Murray-Thomas could see it becoming a reality when she was a high school senior, listening to Swarthmore officials talk about the Eugene M. Lang Opportunity Scholarship.

"They actually gave kids money to do something that mattered,'' she says.

Murray-Thomas was among six students selected last year to receive the scholarship money, which she uses to operate the program.  But the application process began in her sophomore year; she was one of 70 applicants who wrote proposals to address a social problem. That would have been 2013, when there were 10 murders in 10 days in Newark when she came up with the idea to help girls impacted by violence.

The crime spree made her think of her dad, a Guyanese immigrant who was shot and killed in Newark by a teenager when was she just 7-years-old.

She wasn't able to contextualize the underlying issues back then, but now she can.

"Would he (the kid) have picked up the gun if the opportunities he had were different?'' she asks.

Was it a lack of education? Or was it poverty and cycles of violence, she says, that caused the young man to rob and kill her dad.

Through this program, Murray-Thomas teaches the girls how to be leaders in both community service projects and by making them aware of social justice issues regarding class and equality. No topic is too heavy, including any that may have been the reasons for lost souls to gun down others.

What matters to Murray-Thomas is that "SheWins" helps girls such as 13-year-old Aaliyah Bellamy to cope when her niece was killed. "When you lose somebody, you're depressed and it feels like there's no future,'' Aaliyah says. "This shows how you can bounce back.''

Read the full article at The Star-Ledger.

Murray-Thomas '16 is majoring in political science and educational studies with a minor in public policy. She is a Lang Opportunity Scholar, co-president of the Black Student Union, a peer counselor for Career Services, and a member of the women's lacrosse team.