Change can sometimes be a challenge, but 1994 Milken Scholar, Tulani Thomas, is demonstrating that it can also be an opportunity, as she continues to set an example for positive change personally, professionally and in the wider world.
When Tulani was a member of the Wesley Williams Dance Company while attending North Carolina Central University, she taught free dance classes in Durham for young girls in ballet and West African dance. Later, while earning her dual M.B.A. and J.D. degrees at Duke University, she continued her involvement with the youth in Durham and started an afterschool program at the local Boys & Girls Club.
For Tulani, community service is not limited to an extracurricular activity at school: throughout her professional career she has participated in INROADS weekend workshops by being a presenter on various topics ranging from professional etiquette, interviewing skills and resume writing and building.
Between her two stints in college, Tulani obtained her CPA license and worked as an accountant at Ernst & Young. Having experienced a microeconomic view of the business world first-hand, she decided that she wanted to see the big picture and become more involved with the assessment of risks, the analysis of the legal landscape, and how it would affect various business decisions.
After graduating from Duke, Tulani went to work for Clifford & Chance, LLP, where she was able to serve as valuable resource for her clients. Shortly after, Tulani’s life underwent an even bigger change as she married and started a family. Tulani and her husband, Tyrone Thomas, a Director of Sales and Trading at Citigroup, are now proud parents of two young children.
Once she had children she began to channel her inner voice into the written word. Always a consummate writer, Tulani started to write young adult novels and children’s stories. “I always had the stories in me,” she says, “I believe we each have a story (or many) inside that we would like to share.”
Tulani was inspired to write children’s books because of the difficulty in finding certain books for her children’s library. She wanted to find books with diverse characters and books that reinforced the principles that she held in high regard at home. She decided the best route forward would be to form her own publishing company and establish an appealing brand to fill the void. TuTu’s Green World, LLC was born.
Now Tulani balances her family life with an entrepreneurial spirit that allows her creativity and business savvy to shine through. It is an endeavor that gives her the opportunity to pass along the message of green living beyond her home to young people across the country. She published her first book last year which introduced us to the character TuTu. She plans on following up by introducing TuTu’s friends and exploring topics such as community gardens, composting, and solar energy.
Eventually Tulani sees TuTu’s Green World expanding into other media outlets to spread its message of change. Her goal is to spark a young generation by teaching them that it is not only “cool” to be green, but expected. “Having a children’s book series that teaches eco-friendly habits will help produce a generation that is engaged and aware of their actions and surroundings. These children will develop good green habits and will leave the world a better place for their children.”
That sounds like a fitting mission statement for a Lifelong Leader for a Better World.