Lina Tori Jan has been ignoring the words “you can’t” throughout her education, overcoming obstacles as daunting as war, ethnic discrimination, language barriers, and economic need in pursuit of her future.
Tori Jan grew up in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, watching as her girls’ school was raided and closed. She hid in basements during air raids and cheered alongside her father when the regime fell. But even when she returned to school, she faced discrimination from teachers and classmates because she is a member of an ethnic minority called the Hazara.
Tori Jan persevered, earning a scholarship to a local American school despite limited English and then discovering a scholarship program that brought her to a high school in Pennsylvania her junior and senior years. There, she continued to excel and came to Richmond as a Bonner Scholar.
Through the Bonner Scholars program, she has interned with a nonprofit that resettles refugees, taught ESL classes, and worked to restore the civil rights of former inmates who have completed their sentences. Through her work and her own example, she embodies the powerful promise of opportunity.