An Indian student from Dubai, who left traditional schooling in Grade 2, has achieved global recognition by winning a prestigious award at the University of Pennsylvania. Dorothy Jane Thomas, who was homeschooled in Dubai, completed her master’s in non-profit leadership with a perfect 4.0 GPA and received the Richard J. Estes Global Citizenship Award.

Dorothy’s homeschooling journey began under the guidance of her parents, Ashish and Rekha Thomas, both PhD holders. Their decision to homeschool was driven by concerns over the traditional education system’s impact on their children’s well-being. Despite skepticism about discipline in homeschooling, Dorothy credits her parents’ strict and structured approach for her academic success.

“Winning this award is a reminder that our efforts to make a difference, no matter where we come from, have the power to challenge the status quo and transform communities,” Dorothy told Gulf News.

The award recognizes international students committed to social impact, academic excellence, and making a global difference. Dorothy’s contributions span multiple countries, including research on social innovation in Kenya, volunteer management in India and Taiwan, and sustainable tourism in Costa Rica.

Her disciplined upbringing included a mix of academic rigor and diverse extracurricular activities, from horse riding to community engagement through their church. Dorothy and her sisters have thrived in their academic pursuits, with her eldest sister Stefanie attending Harvard and the youngest, Darianne, currently at UPenn.

With a history of significant contributions in the nonprofit sector, Dorothy is now set to pursue an MPhil in Organizational Dynamics at UPenn, where she will also work in alumni relations starting this August.