• Dorothy Thomas

     

    Dorothy Thomas

    Chair & Founding Member, The CHILD Center for Early Learning

    Dorothy Thomas is a mother, wife, volunteer, community advocate, activist and champion for children’s issues. Today her biggest motivations are her children and other children in the community. As chair and a founding member of The CHILD Center for Early Learning, a board member of Southwest Advocacy Group (SWAG) and an organizer for the Campaign for Children’s Trust of Alachua County, Thomas makes speaking out about social justice and helping others a full-time job and hopes that her actions teach her kids to do the same.”

    “Find your own voice. You can only be fierce if you are authentic. We are not all good at the same things. We don’t have to have the same interests or priorities. We don’t look the same, act the same or do things the same way. We don’t even have to all like each other,” said Thomas. “But if we can respect each other and help every woman find her own path, we will all benefit.”

    What does it mean to be Fierce?
    To be strong. To be brave. To be consistent. To be committed. To be passionate. To do        what is right, even when it isn’t easy. To fight hard and long for the things you believe in.

    What does success, achievement and accomplishment mean to you?
    Success is when you work really hard to accomplish something, and the result is a good one. Sometimes that means that the result is just what you imagined at the start. Other times it means that there were twists and turns along the way that required changes and  adjustments you had not anticipated, but there is still a good result. Occasionally, if you are really lucky, it means that not only did you meet your original goal, but you also were able to watch it turn into something better than you could have ever imagined it.

    What motivates you in the morning?
    Two things. (1) My kids. (2) Other people’s kids.

    My role in the community means that my kids grow up believing that conversations about  social justice should be part of their daily experience, and they see what it means to work hard for the benefit of others. Setting that kind of example for them is a full-time job, and  one that I am happy and privileged to take on each day.

    Every day when I walk into my daughter’s and son’s school, it reminds me why I do what I do. Every child deserves a chance to succeed and be the best version of themselves that they can be, but not every child has the same opportunities or support system in place to make that happen. As long as there are children that are getting left behind, I will stay motivated to find ways that we, as a society, and I, as an individual, can do better.

    The projects I work on – particularly SWAG, the CHILD Center and the Campaign for a Children’s Trust – are really making a difference in kids’ lives. I feel a great deal of responsibility to make sure that these projects meet or exceed the expectations we set for ourselves, donors, patrons and the children of this community.

    What or who is inspiring you right now? Why?
    The best part of being a full-time volunteer working for a great cause is that you get to meet hundreds of amazing people. They are all special in their own way, and they all teach something new. I am invigorated and inspired by them. I really believe that we have the power to change lives. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

    What was the best decision you’ve made? What’s the worst?

    Best: To marry my husband, Scott. To have kids, which was not something I planned on doing before. To be brave enough to retire from practicing law, so I could do other things I loved. To volunteer at SWAG.

    Worst: Pretty much every fashion decision I made in the 80s and into the 90s.

    What has been your biggest obstacle and how have you overcome it?
    My biggest challenge is staying focused on long-term objectives when short-term results would be much easier to achieve. Poverty and inequity are generational problems, and if  we are serious about making sustainable, systematic change, we have to be willing to think bigger than our immediate needs. Getting people to buy into that vision isn’t always easy. To accomplish this, I try to make sure I can articulate both my short-term goals and my long-term goals.

    How do you address negativity in your life and in business?
    Meet it head on, address it and move on.

    Is there a particular instance or occurrence that you credit for building your confidence and self-esteem?
    When I practiced law in New York, I had a new challenge almost every day. I worked at a big firm that represented mostly Fortune 100 companies. To be successful, I had to perform at the highest levels, even when I was doing something new and intimidating. I quickly learned that part of succeeding was to project a confident exterior, even if I was terrified on the inside. Each time I was able to achieve a desired outcome, my confidence grew a tiny bit. Eventually, I learned how to trust my instincts and take some calculated risks, which often resulted in excellent outcomes. Now, I still get nervous, but I never doubt my instincts and I trust my abilities.

    How do you empower other women?
    Encourage them to find their own voice. You can only be “fierce” if you are authentic. We are not all good at the same things. We don’t have to have the same interests or priorities. We don’t look the same, act the same or do things the same way. We don’t even have to like each other, but if we can respect each other and help every woman find her own path, we will all benefit.

    What change do you want to see in your industry?
    We need more people to do what I do. I have no particular expertise or skill set that makes me more qualified than someone else to do what I do. There are too many excuses as to why people can’t make a difference or aren’t qualified to [fill in the blank]. If there is a cause you are passionate about, make getting involved a priority.

    Do you have any advice for young women as they try to achieve their goals?
    Your reputation is your biggest asset; protect it ferociously. Don’t let yourself be compromised. Always tell the truth. Work hard, even on the things you hate doing.  Recognize that you can’t accomplish everything, so make wise choices about what you allocate your time to. Make yourself indispensable. Believe in yourself enough to carry   you through the times when others don’t believe in you. Never be afraid to do the right thing. Listen to others but follow your own heart.

    What do you want to be remembered for?
    Being a good person. Changing a life. Finding a way to make every child feel valued by someone. Using my voice to speak for others who are not able to speak for themselves.

    How do you defy the current stereotypes, stigmas and double standards that women have today?
    Ignore them. They can only limit me if I let them.