“An expert in peace,” words used by Second District Council Person Suja Lowenthal to describe Michelle Molina.
Molina is the owner and CEO of PeaceBuilders, an organization dedicated to empowering young people to be successful through learning social skills. She is an educator, businesswoman, and mother of two.
After getting a late start with teaching when she was 30, Molina decided to dedicate herself to empowering young people to be successful.
“I did my student-teaching in Huntington Beach, and no offense to those people but I immediately knew that that would not be where I worked as an educator.” Instead Molina said, despite mixed reactions from her friends and family, she took a job teaching in Paramount where she said kids, “had all of the best intentions, but needed a few more tools to be successful.
Twenty years later, Molina is dedicated to helping others through the PeaceBuilders program on a full-time basis, with more than 40 states throughout the union.
“At the root of what we do is teaching children social skills to help them be successful,” said Molina. “They’re just simple things like the know-how to avoid fights, follow through with commitments, and learn to apologize.” Those ‘simple things’ were enough however, to have PeaceBuilders recognized by the federal government as a ‘best practice’ for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention.
PeaceBuilders is also on their way to a second certification by the office of Substance Abuse and Health Services to become a best practice for those types of problems. The auditing process began in 2011, and now-48 research studies and 18 months later, the company is on the cusp of achieving this recognition.
When Molina purchased the company in 2003, there were over 500 non-profits throughout Long Beach fighting for the same pool of funds, and she didn’t think that ‘stealing money’ from that pool was an effective way to contribute to the community health of Long Beach.
“Some people look at us differently because we’re a for-profit,” she said, “but seeing all for-profits as ‘greedy’ is an old-fashioned way of looking at it, and the battle to prove the charitability of my company is no longer one I wish to contend.”
The number of non-profits in Long Beach has doubled since Molina opened the doors of PeaceBuilders, and with the well of state re-development funds now dried up, those non-profits are probably thankful that the super-active Molina is not vying for that pool of funds as the rest of them are.
Friends and associates of Molina also describe her as someone who leaves no stone unturned in her pursuit of social justice.
“There is no minutia too small to deal with, as long as it maters to someone,” Buchanan said, “and Michelle will always address those details in a positive way.”
Molina described her idea of peace, and it is not one that involves quiet rooms and aroma therapy candles.
“That yoga-like idea of peace as something that surrounds you with tranquility is not realistic to everyone,” Molina said. “It’s more important that we internalize that, and that allows us to be productive even in the midst of the most unproductive circumstances.”
To hear Molina speak and others speak about her, check out the video above. And for more information about Peace Builders, go HERE.