Mercedes Molloy: A Spark that has turned into a fire

Posted: June 20, 2013 in 4-H, Leadership Development, Monday Morning Message, Youth Development

I met Mercedes in December of 2012 at one of our training events where we were training county teams to take back the principles of positive youth development back to their counties.  Mercedes along with her mother were part of the team in Santa Cruz who would go back and train project leaders in their county who were planning on using the 4-H Thrive curriculum in their Jr. and Teen Leadership projects.  Even though she is only 13 years old, it didn’t take long to realize that Mercedes had begun to grasp something about positive youth development that many of us as adults struggle with—internalizing the principles into every aspect of our lives.

This past May, while speaking at a conference down in Santa Cruz, I had the privilege of spending a day with Mercedes and her mother and hearing their story about how the principles of positive youth development in the context of the 4-H Thrive project had impacted their lives.  In just a few short minutes you could see how Mercedes has both embraced the principles and become a champion of them in her county, touching her world both inside and outside 4-H with them.

Immediately upon entering her home, you werMercedese greeted with a taste of who Mercedes is and what gives her joy and energy each day.  Her home was filled with beautiful paintings that she had created depicting many of her passions from animals to landscapes.  As I took a tour of this homegrown museum, Mercedes went on to talk about her “spark” for painting and how her involvement with 4-H Thrive has encouraged her to continue to pursue it and helped her put a vocabulary to how she felt.  It’s clear from listening to her that painting is one thing in Mercedes life that gives her joy and purpose.

As the day went on, Mercedes shared with me a presentation that she had prepared and delivered to the Santa Cruz Board of County Supervisors on the 6 Cs of Thriving.  Research tells us that the 6 Cs are indicators that a young person is on a trajectory to reaching their full potential.  The 6 Cs are: Caring Character, Connection, Competence, Contribution and Confidence.  Her presentation showed how she is using her “spark” for art to teach kids about recycling and how her participation in this project is specifically contributing to the development of each of the 6 Cs in her life. 

As if this wasn’t enough, she shared another presentation that she had developed for school called, “Many Faces of a Hero”.  This presentation was an intense and powerful look at the different human rights heroes.  While doing her research, Mercedes was able to connect personally with a holocaust survivor Dina Babbit who was forced to draw portraits of Romani inmates for the infamous Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz and shares about her struggle to regain possession of her paintings.  Since her presentation, Mercedes has become involved in the effort to have Dina’s paintings returned to her.  

Mercedes is an amazing example of how our 4-H youth are learning skills that are preparing them for life and how 4-H is helping them become caring, confident and competent people of character who connect with others and contribute to their community.  Mercede’s story shows how with the support of 4-H and other caring adults, a young person can identify a spark in their life and have it turn into a flame.


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