Shirley “Shirl” Thomas, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to the late Mr. William Manley Sr. and Mrs. Lottie Manley, was raised and educated in the Ewing Township school system. Following an early graduation from high school, she attended Elizabeth City State University, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina obtaining an Associate’s degree in Law Enforcement. At 19 years old, she unsure of her future, she decided to join the United States Army.
Shirl proudly served in the Army for 25 years until her retirement in March 2004. While in the Army she was stationed in various states, countries and several combat zones .She had the opportunity to serve in various positions and attend airborne school. Platoon Leader, Advanced Individual Training Instructor, Basic Noncommissioned Officer and Advanced Noncommissioned Officer instructor, Equal Opportunity Advisor, Sexual Assault/Harassment Response and Prevention (SHARP) and First Sergeant School are positions she maintained during her service to our country. Even after retirement, Ms. Thomas remains committed to the military. She is currently employed as Military Science Instructor and Logistic Technician, with Princeton University and the College of New Jersey Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC).
In May 2012 Shirl graduated from the College of New Jersey with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminology and Bachelor of Arts Degree in Women and Gender Studies. Her future plans included enrollment in Law School to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming an Attorney.
Shirl has a passion for all sports, youth, seniors, incarcerated men and women. She volunteers her time with Big Brother and Big Sister, mentoring, tutoring, reading and spending time with the youth and elderly. To that end, she volunteers as a tutor at the Albert C. Wagner Correctional Facilities assisting incarcerated individuals who are working to obtain their GED. Ms. Thomas also severs as the Executive Assistant for the Never Give Up Organization (NGU) and We The People 4 New Jersey (WTP4NJ)
Ms. Thomas is a proud member of the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church and serves on various ministries; the one she is most proud of is serving as the executive assistant to the Pastor.
Shirl has three favorite quotes by three individuals that she has a vast deal of admiration for; (1) “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (2) “Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.” Shirley Chisholm and (3) “You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people. Dr. Cornel West. Shirl has had the pleasure of meeting, and sharing bountiful conversations with Dr. West. When the opportunity presented itself Shirl asked Dr. West if he would speak to the youth of Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. He agree and the forum “Looking Beyond Your Front Door” was another proud moment of accomplishment and community engagement. One of her favorite mottos is “when you fail to plan; you plan to fail”.
Shirl has been volunteering with The African American Cultural Collaborative of Mercer County since 2015. She currently serves a Board Member and the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director.