Jok Thon - University of Maryland Baltimore County
"Jok arrived from South Sudan in August 2022 to begin his Master's Degree...and his story was so compelling that he was invited to be a featured speaker at a campus-wide event to kick off our academic year. He inspired our entire community that day, and he continues to challenge us to think both locally and globally in our teaching, learning and engagement...At UMBC, we know Jok as a curious, passionate, visionary, and humble leader. His lifts the spirit and elevates the dialogue."
Dr. Valerie Sheares Ashby
President, University of Maryland Baltimore County
It is my vision to bring lasting peace to South Sudan through education and civic engagement and social enterprises, and my time at UMBC and in Baltimore is helping me gain the skills and knowledge I need to realize this dream. I was raised during a civil war moving between refugee camps and experiencing dramatic social upheaval. The empathy I gained led me to establish Promised Land School in 2016 with the mission of changing minds from Bullets to Books. The interruption of education due to conflict has had severe consequences. South Sudan has 2.5 million children aged 5-14 years old out of school. Three-quarters of our girls don't finish high school. Promised Land is on a mission to change this drawing upon our resilient and creative people. In 2018, we established a residential program for girls to provide a safe learning space protected from gender violence and inequity. We engage all our conflict-impacted students and their families from ten ethnic groups in activities with peacebuilding goals across cultures. Our school now educates 1,500 students annually, with hundreds who have moved on to universities in South Sudan and worldwide.
In 2022, I was humbled to become UMBC's first Global Peaceworker Fellow, studying towards my Masters in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Leadership while working through the Shriver Center to help realize UMBC’s mission of becoming a globally engaged campus community. I’ve enjoyed telling my story and leading discussions in and out of classrooms and in Baltimore through our many community partnerships. This opportunity to become a Civic Fellow with Transform Mid-Atlantic, will expand my leadership learning and skills and allow me to build relationships with young leaders across our region. TMA is supporting the empathetic servant leaders our world needs today, and it would be my privilege to participate.
2023-2024 Transform Mid-Atlantic Civic Fellow