IN TODAY’S SUPER SOUL ORIGINAL SHORT… A LIFE- CHANGING LESSON IN GRATITUDE…AND THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF “PAYING IT FORWARD…” I FIRST MET ALEX MOLINA ON THE “OPRAH SHOW” IN 2004. ALEX WAS 20 YEARS OLD, LIVING IN LOS ANGELES AND STRUGGLING TO HEAL THE WOUNDS OF A DIFFICULT UPBRINGING. ALEX: I grew up in a very abusive home. My father was very abusive towards all of us. My mother could never show any affection towards us. AFTER YEARS OF LIVING IN SHELTERS AND FOSTER HOMES, ALEX BECAME LEGALLY EMANCIPATED AT THE AGE OF SIXTEEN. FIGHTING TO STAY OFF THE STREETS OF L.A., SHE DISCOVERED COVENANT HOUSE, A RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM FOR HOMELESS YOUTH. THROUGH COVENANT HOUSE, ALEX SAYS SHE FOUND SUPPORT, STRUCTURE, AND A NEW WAY OF LIVING… ALEX: When I was young and I first was homeless, my escape was always school. For me, from a very young age, I knew that what was going to take me out of my homelessness was my education. INSPIRED BY HER COURAGE AND RESILIENCE, WE SURPRISED ALEX ON THE OPRAH SHOW WITH A FULL COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP… ALEX: On that Oprah show, my life completely transformed and changed. I finally had that one person who believed in me. And she’s never stopped. THIRTEEN YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE THAT MOMENT, AND ALEX HAS FOUND THE CONNECTION SHE LONGED FOR BY HELPING OTHERS HEAL. ALEX: I got a degree in Sociology and with that I wanted help people. I feel like that’s my calling, that’s my purpose in life. I got hired at Covenant House and became a case manager -that’s a full-circle moment right there[LAUGHS] for me. I often had a lot of youth look at me and say, “You don’t know what it’s like to have to live here. In that moment, when I would get to be able to look them in the eye and be like, “I slept in those hallways. I slept in those bunkbeds and I made it to college, and I made something of myself and now, I’m here giving back to you guys. So, I do know.” AND IT WAS THIS KNOWING THAT MADE ALEX WANT TO DO EVEN MORE… ALEX: So, what you see here are the same bunkbeds that I once slept on thirteen-years ago as a homeless kid at Covenant House, but, obviously, in worse condition-it broke my heart and I just couldn’t stand by that. So, I just decided to ask Oprah if she would come on board and maybe help. ALEX ORIGINALLY HOPED JUST FOR NEW MATTRESSES, BUT COVENANT HOUSE NEEDED SO MUCH MORE. SO I CALLED INTERIOR DESIGNER JEREMIAH BRENT… JEREMIAH BRENT: I came in, I met the kids, I met everybody that’s involved in this amazing organization and said we’ve got to change everything. FOUR WEEKS, FORTY ROOMS AND 96 BEDS LATER, JEREMIAH INVITED ALEX AND ME TO SEE THE TRANSFORMATION. OPRAH: Hello. Hi, Jeremiah. JEREMIAH: How are you? OPRAH: Hi, Jeremiah. Can’t wait to see. JEREMIAH: You excited? OPRAH: I’m excited. JEREMIAH: Yeah. JEREMIAH: So just so you know where this has kind of gone now is it went from just being beds to completely renovating all four buildings from the ground up. New floors, no walls. Everything’s been changed. ALEX: Wow. JEREMIAH: New laundry rooms. New washers and dryers. We’ve even gone and addressed this front room which before was where kids come in off the street at night. OPRAH: Ready? JEREMIAH: After you guys. OPRAH: All right. After you. ALEX: Wow. OPRAH: Wow. ALEX: No way. OPRAH: Whoa. ALEX: This looks like a home. JEREMIAH BRENT: You come into this internet cafe, which was just a recieving lobby before, the idea is that the second you walk through the door, you shift the possibilities. Kids start to think ‘Okay it is possible, I am seen, I am heard, there are people that care. ALEX: This is beyond what I ever could’ve dreamed of. OPRAH: We’re just getting started. JEREMIAH: This is just the start. OPRAH: Just the start. All right. Next stop. JEREMIAH: So next we’re going to go up to the safe haven rooms which is where on the journey on enrolling in the program, everybody starts there. So are you ready? OPRAH: Okay. JEREMIAH BRENT: The interior design that really makes a difference, is when you create spaces based on the moments that people are going to have in them. And this entire process, this entire project of working on the Covenant House, has been about creating moments for these kids to begin their lives in an entirely different way. JEREMIAH: Come on in. ALEX: Come on in. OPRAH: Gosh, I love this. ALEX: No way. Wow. JEREMIAH: Okay. So, now, you have to — oh. OPRAH: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. ALEX: Thank you. OPRAH: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. ALEX: This is home. JEREMIAH: Oh, my God. ALEX: To the kids. This is their home. And it does not look like an institution. Or a shelter. It looks like a home. JEREMIAH BRENT: It’s one thing to preach about making a difference, it’s another to practice. Alex was a kid in this program and now look what she’s done. Look what she’s affected. The change that one kid in one bedroom here has shifted. Now, every kid that comes in here for the next ten years, is going to feel that change. ALEX: So this is Miss Lon, my case manager. OPRAH: Oh, my God. I heard so much about you. MS. LAWN: I heard so much about you. Hi, how are you? LON VANITA USHER: I got to know Alex when she first came to Covenant House. Uh, she was like many of our clients, broken, uh, alone, uh, not sure what her life was going to be. It’s very rewarding to know that the hard work that she and I did together paid off in the end. She is my daughter for life. JEREMIAH: So this room that we’re about to walk into, this wing is really important because kids have multiple jobs throughout the evening so we really, really tried to create home for everybody. So are you excited for this one? ALEX: I’m excited. OPRAH: Let’s go. OPRAH: Whoa. ALEX: Whoa, stop. MS. LON: Oh, my God. ALEX: No. MS. LON: It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. They so deserve it. ALEX: It looks like a home. My goodness. OPRAH: This looks like home. MS. LAWN: Yes. ALEX: Amazing. OPRAH: Welcome home. (Laughter.) ALEX: This was home for me. This was where I did homework. This was where I cried. This was where I made friendships. But it’s become so much better, so — amazing. OPRAH: Okay. How you gonna top this? JEREMIAH: Well. ALEX: Yeah. JEREMIAH: You tell me. So we’re gonna go back to your room. WHEN SHE WAS A FULL TIME COVENANT HOUSE RESIDENT, ALEX MOVED FROM THE BUNK BEDS TO A MORE PRIVATE, 2 PERSON BEDROOM WHERE SHE COULD FOCUS ON HER STUDIES. OPRAH: Not a mattress on the floor. ALEX: Oh, my goodness. OPRAH: Wow. ALEX: Was where my old bed was. Wow. And desks? JEREMIAH: Yes, we have — everybody’s going to have their own desks, chairs, lockers, side tables. ALEX: This is amazing, Jeremiah. Wow. Especially because most of the kids in this program are going to school. And I would have to do my homework on my bed or on the floor. But you created space for them. JEREMIAH: Yep. We tried. ALEX: Thank you. OPRAH: This is like, really — this is my favorite, actually. JEREMIAH: Yeah? OPRAH: It just feels like this could be your room. JEREMIAH: Yeah. ALEX: Yeah. OPRAH: At home. ALEX: At home. It’s hard to even, like, put — think of a word that could justify how I feel right now. This was my home. And to know that it actually looks like a home now? I love you. OPRAH: Oh. ALEX: Yeah. JEREMIAH: This is the good stuff. ALEX: Yeah. JEREMIAH: When people rise up and the space rises up to meet them. ALEX: And that’s what I hope, that this will inspire our kids to want to stay here. The streets are there. They have to do the work here now. OPRAH: That’s fantastic. ALEX: When they leave, hopefully they’ll search for this again in their lives and maintain it. OPRAH: Wow, hey. What a great day. I just want to say, first of all, thank you to Alex, who I’ve known since she was a resident here and made a visit to The Oprah Show. I saw that she had a light inside of her and believed in her and wanted to support her. And it doesn’t matter, as a person who has come from, you know, really a difficult, challenging upbringing, I know that your challenges, your suffering, your difficulties, every single one of them, none of them will be wasted. This will be the place that lifted you up and gave you the wings to fly out and do unimaginable things. Because it does not matter from whence you’ve come. What matters is where you’re going. What matters is where you’re going. So, enjoy this with love. Thank you. ALEX: I’ve been grateful for Oprah since I was a kid because she gave me that strength. I was able to see her life and see that somebody can actually get themselves out of what they were born into. And if she can do it, I can do it.