In 1995, Dr. Lovely Thornton wrote a poem called “A Sensible Woman” in honor of her mother, Margaret. Margaret was a sharecropper’s wife with eight children, and although life certainly wasn’t easy for her, she consistently exuded a sense of responsibility, integrity, and poise. Thornton admired these qualities in her late mother, and the poem paid tribute to her. So would Thornton’s life work.
Nearly 17 years later, Thornton founded Sensible Women Initiative Inc. (SWI). The organization is dedicated to assisting young ladies ages 5 to 25 in developing common sense and decision-making skills. SWI has expanded its membership since its founding in 2012, establishing chapters in Rochester, New York; Dover, Delaware, at Delaware State University; and Towson, Maryland, at Towson University, where Thornton currently works as an adjunct professor.
“I want youth to choose right over wrong and understand that their decisions create the foundation for the rest of their lives,” she says.
With more than 600 participants in the program, SWI has hosted six national conferences in Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and South Carolina. The 2018 conference will be held in Alexandria, Virginia, in July.
But SWI is only one aspect of Thornton’s decades-long career working to improve the lives of youth around the world. An impressive résumé of social change activities earned the 1993 PhD in Education grad distinction as Walden’s 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award winner.
As a 20-year military spouse, Thornton left her mark wherever she and her family traveled. In 1987, she co-founded and served as president of Parents Assisting Youth in Germany. A desire to broaden her skill set led her to pursue her PhD in Education with Walden in the early 1990s. Thornton expanded upon her personal mission through her coursework and her dissertation, which explored parental involvement with a child’s teachers.
Walden’s commitment to social change hit home with Thornton, and it soon became an ever-present theme in her career. After graduating, she served in leadership roles to develop and implement a transition program for a Department of Defense school in Japan that served more than 400 students; to increase diversity in New York and Delaware schools; and to develop a program for student support at the Howard University College of Pharmacy’s Center of Excellence in Washington, D.C.
Now, Thornton is focused on developing a Washington, D.C., and Maryland chapter of elementary school girls who SWI can mentor throughout their formative years. She and the SWI team aim to establish a chapter in every state.
“We are committed to encouraging young ladies to focus on the power of common sense,” she says. “If we can influence a young woman’s mindset, we can change the mindset of the world.”