A'Dorian Murray-Thomas ['16], 21, began a program called "SHE Wins" in Newark last year, with a grant from Swarthmore College, now her alma mater. The idea was to take girls and young women impacted by homicide or other violence and give them "a safe space" to tell their stories and grow. In the two years of the program, Murray-Thomas has had 50 girls come through her "Leadership Institute," some as young as 8. She understood their needs. Her own father was murdered when she was 7.
"What we did was make life as normal as possible for her," said Dana Murray, A'Dorian's mom, who was in Ocean Grove helping. "It was a family project to keep A'Dorian moving forward."
This is the lesson, Murray-Thomas is passing on to her charges. Keep learning. Keep living. Keep giving.
While Murray-Thomas began the group with the idea of focusing on girls who had been directly impacted by homicide, she quickly realized her lessons "of resilience building" were important to all girls who suffered trauma or live in frightening environments.
"The three core focuses of resilience-building are giving the girls new learning opportunities, allowing them to have positive relationships with adults and teaching them problem solving," Murray-Thomas said.
A'Dorian Murray-Thomas '16 graduated from Swarthmore College with a B.A. in political science and educational studies and a minor in public policy. At Swarthmore, she was 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. Glamour Magazine named her a 2016 College Woman of the Year.