Molinary promotes self-acceptance and positive body image through teaching and non-profit work.
When Rosie Molinary ’96 was in high school, a guidance counselor encouraged the straight “A” student to set aside her college goals. As a young Puerto Rican woman, she should instead think about a skill or trade to focus on—a more realistic future for someone like her. Thankfully, Molinary pushed ignorance aside and proceeded to follow her dreams… dreams that led her to Davidson.

“Davidson was not the perfect place for me because it was effortless; it was the perfect place for me because it wasn’t,” she said. “Mentors like retired anthropology professor Nancy Fairley really championed my interests, helped me navigate spaces and pushed me to be better.”

As a student, the Bonner Scholar studied youth gang violence, and while many may struggle to see the connection between the focus of her senior thesis and her work today around issues of self-acceptance, body image, and self-esteem, she points out the similarities.

“At the end of the day, it’s about self-worth,” she explained. “If you value yourself, you don’t hurt other people. And if you value yourself, you don’t hurt yourself.” After college, and following her time as the director of community service at Davidson and several years as a school teacher, Molinary now teaches a course in body image at UNC Charlotte and serves as an educator for Dove’s national self-esteem project. The two-time book author also is the founder of Circle de Luz, a nonprofit that invests emotionally and financially in the futures of young Latinas in Mecklenburg County schools.

Molinary knew the statistics around teen pregnancy and high school graduation weren’t good for young Latinas. She joined together with like-minded women and decided to do something about it.

“We want girls to know their futures can be of their choosing, and life doesn’t have to happen to them,” she said. “We teach that it’s important to be present, and when you show up for someone, you should show up with your whole heart. I have come to teach what I most needed to learn.”

There are countless stories that describe the impact of Circle de Luz on the girls who are mentored, motivated and empowered through this organization. A few years ago, the group went to see the musical “In the Heights” at the Blumenthal in Charlotte—a show with a heavily Latino/a cast. At the end of the show, one girl had tears streaming down her face. When asked why she was crying, the student responded, “I had no idea there were this many opportunities for people who look like me.”

Molinary is committed to helping others, and her infectious passion for guiding students and mentees through their lives, if only for a season, has made a lasting difference.

How are we cultivating more game changers like Rosie Molinary?
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