Newark Public Schools honors its first Rhodes Scholar

Rhodes Scholarship recipient Jordan Thomas, shown here with his parents, served in several capacities at NPS, including his role as Student Representative on the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board. Credits: NPS
Members of the Newark Board of Education this week honored Jordan Thomas, a 2014 graduate of Newark’s University High School, who has been selected to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. Credits: NPS

Members of the Newark Board of Education this week honored Jordan Thomas, a 2014 graduate of Newark’s University High School who was recently selected to receive a Rhodes Scholarship.

Thomas, who plans to continue his studies at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, is the first graduate of Newark Public Schools to receive the prestigious scholarship.

The Rhodes Scholarship—established in 1902 and named after the British mining magnate and businessman Cecil John Rhodes—is an international postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford. The scholarship is considered to be one of the world's most prestigious and was the first large-scale program of international scholarships.

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Led by Community Engagement Committee Chair Dashay Carter, board members presented a proclamation to Thomas and his family at the December 19 meeting of the board.

“Today, we recognize a young man who has made history not only for Newark Public Schools, but also for the city of Newark," Board Chair Marquis Aquil-Lewis said. "Jordan Thomas has been named our first Rhodes Scholar. We congratulate him. He represents our city and our students well."

Thomas, who plans to pursue his studies in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation, served in several capacities at NPS, including his role as Student Representative on the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board during the 2013-2014 school year.

After graduating from University High School, Thomas went on to attend Princeton University, where he is currently on track to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 2018.

Thomas formerly studied as a Fulbright Summer Institute Fellow at the University of Bristol in Bristol, England, and later interned at the Office for Civil Rights’ Program Legal Group at the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative.

Thomas currently serves as the co-chair of the community house executive board at Princeton, where he oversees student-driven education projects to support under-represented youth in academic success. 

“I am truly honored and humbled to stand before you this evening to accept this proclamation from a school district and city I love,” Thomas said.

“It is such a huge honor. I have a mission and goal in my life and that is to have an impact on others," he said. "I truly believe in my heart this will help me to come back and serve my city. The people I have met along my journey have been special and it’s amazing to see the impact I can have on others. I will be coming back to Newark - I’m not finished yet.”

Thomas is one of 32 American recipients of the prestigious fellowship, which funds two to three year of graduate study at the University of Oxford. Fellowship recipients were selected from a pool of 866 candidates who had been nominated by their colleges and universities.  

"Jordan Thomas embodies the best of our students at the Newark Board of Education," Board member Reginald Bledsoe said. "We are very proud of his accomplishments and look forward to working with him returning to Newark to serve our community. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Jordan’s parents, Kyle and Mari Thomas—without their unconditional love and support, none of this would have been possible.”

Thomas will be hosting a student discussion and conducting research at University High School on January 4 and has already met with students at American High School, where his father teaches.

“Jordan represents the best of Newark Public Schools students and their passion to learn, explore and impact the world, Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Christopher Cerf said. “We are proud of Jordan’s accomplishments and look forward to an extraordinary future for him.”

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