Colleen J. Thomas of Easley, author of “Beautiful Skin: A Children’s Book about Overcoming Racism,” graduated from Clemson in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.
In 2014 she joined the non-profit Silicon Valley Education Foundation, which provides education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics for teachers and underserved students in Northern California. Now SVEF’s director of strategic impact, she has used her engineering skills to design systems and improve processes that have enabled the foundation to increase the number of students it serves annually from 900 in 2014 to more than 5,000 in 2021.
She published “Beautiful Skin,” an Amazon #1 New Release in 2020, to help parents and children of all races talk about and understand race, racism and diversity. She donates 20 percent of the proceeds from book sales to benefit local schools and programs that assist children.
Colleen’s husband, Brandon, is a former Clemson football player. Everywhere his career in the National Football League took them, she became involved in community service activities. Examples include helping to build a playground in San Francisco to volunteering at food pantries in Detroit and at a women’s shelter in Jacksonville. She also started her own initiative, #MomCoffeeMonday, to recognize deserving moms across the country with coffee gift cards every Monday.
Colleen shares her Clemson experience with students who participate in SVEF college readiness events in Northern California and when she is invited to speak at her high school alma mater in Rhode Island. She also shares Clemson through the illustrations in her children’s book. A Tiger Paw is hidden on every page.
Her three children were inspirations for the book. Mary Kate (5), Leila (2) and RJ (1) resemble characters in the story.