Alumni Spotlight: Molly Shriver
Mrs. Caitlin Chalke, Director of Communications, Marketing, and Alumni Relations

Not many people can say that their life changed by reading a book. For Molly Shriver, Class of 2012, that was the catalyst for her career.

The Woods Academy in Bethesda, MD have alumni that attend top choice high schools and colleges like Boston College.

She was a sophomore at Boston College and decided to take “The Challenge of Justice” class. She was assigned to read “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God” by Kelly Brown Douglas and “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander, and to watch 13th by Ava DuVernay. She was aware of racial injustice in America, but never knew the extent of it until this moment. This class, these books, and this movie, ignited a flame inside her that was a long time coming.  

Alumni Molly Shriver stands outside The Woods Academy Montessori preschool door in Bethesda.

Molly grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. She joined The Woods Academy as a “Luncher” in Montessori II in Ms. Gerber’s class. She remembers her time at The Woods fondly. She enjoyed the close-knit community, the challenging classes, and the idea that Woods always put an emphasis on service and giving back to others. 

Her summers weren’t “typical” growing up as she says. She didn’t go to an all-girls sleepaway camp or lacrosse camp. Molly spent her time away from The Woods at Camp Shriver - a summer camp that serves an equal number of children with and without disabilities. Camp Shriver aims to foster acceptance among children with and without disabilities in the hopes of  transforming society's vision and approach to its most vulnerable members. Camp Shriver was started by her grandmother Eunice Kennedy Shriver who lived not far from Molly and her family in Maryland.

Molly Shriver with Grandmother Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Her grandmother played a pivotal role in Molly’s passion for giving back. Sunday family dinners with her grandmother and  Special Olympic athletes,  and trips to Cape Cod with these individuals were some of the most memorable experiences from her formative years. Molly said, “my summers were spent going to Camp Shriver and I participated in the Special Olympics basketball program of  Montgomery County my whole life so it’s been a part of me since childhood - it’s been my whole life.”

After her time at The Woods Academy, Molly went to Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac, Maryland. She played field hockey, lacrosse, and tennis (she was captain senior year), and was extremely involved in Holy Child’s Best Buddies Club, eventually becoming the President. The mission of Best Buddies at Holy Child is to involve students in friendships with their peers who have developmental differences. They work closely with Potomac Community Resources (PCR), and Molly helped to organize parties with PCR members like the annual Beach Party, held in Holy Child’s gym. Molly was also a member of the National Honor Society - a nationwide organization that selects high school students based on four pillars of criteria: scholarship, service, leadership, and character.

The Woods Academy Alumni Molly Shriver at the Special Olympics

During her spare time in high school, Molly worked with the Special Olympics’ Unified Sports basketball team. Unified Sports promotes social inclusion through shared sports training and competition, joining people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.

Molly went on to Boston College where she found that class “The Challenge of Justice.” The first three assignments were the two books and film mentioned earlier. She was hooked. She wanted to know more.

“Given my family's involvement with Special Olympics and Best Buddies, and my dad’s work with Save the Children, I’ve had some exposure to injustices in the world. However,  the idea of racial injustice in America was something I was not aware of until my time at Boston College - in terms of institutional racism in America, especially in the criminal justice system.” She knew then her calling in life was to focus on racial and criminal justice.

Her family and friends weren’t shocked when she decided to Major in Political Science at Boston College (BC) with two Minors - Journalism and Faith, Peace, and Justice. According to Boston College, the “Faith, Peace and Justice minor offers students the opportunity to explore, in an interdisciplinary manner, how their own serious questions about faith, peace, and justice are related to concrete work for peace and justice in our world.”

“My academic path at BC was pretty intense, I would say. I did a major and two minors, which is doing more than two majors in terms of requirements. Freshman year was entry level and was learning how to survive. It then all changed for me sophomore year once I decided my path.”

Senior year she enrolled in BC’s Inside-Out Program - a model of higher education that brought 10-15 students from Boston College and 10-15 students from Suffolk County House of Correction to study together as peers. Molly recalls the respectful, open dialogue that occurred between the students in the class. “We weren’t coming in to tutor the individuals in the house of correction or observing them. We were all in the same class, learning about the same thing. It was life changing.”

This class led Molly to where she is now - REFORM Alliance in Los Angeles. REFORM aims to transform probation and parole by changing the laws, systems, and culture to create real pathways to work and wellbeing. REFORM believes that “a justice system that holds people accountable and redirects back to work and wellbeing leads to stronger families and safe communities. Instead of keeping people trapped in a revolving door from probation/parole to prison - which costs taxpayers billions of dollars - we’re working to move people from the justice system into stability.”

Molly is a project manager at REFORM and is working to help educate the public of the injustices surrounding  the prison system, as well as encourage individuals and foundations to help pass bills. She works closely with foundations, companies, and high net worth individuals.

“Growing up so close to my grandmother and being involved in the Special Olympics at such a young age , I was really interested in social justice work. I always knew I wanted to do that with my life. I was then moved by the racial injustice in this country when I took that class sophomore year. All of that combined brought me to where I am today.”

In addition to fighting for rights for those incarcerated, Molly is also continuing on her grandmother’s legacy through working with the Special Olympics. She is the Chair of the Special Olympics’ Founder’s Council, which was established to strengthen the role that the descendants of Eunice Kennedy Shriver play in promoting the importance of Special Olympics, its impact, and ensuring the future success of the Special Olympics movement.

Of this group, Molly says it’s a “unique body within the administrative structure of Special Olympics International, and it’s a group of my cousins that want to stay involved with the organization and continue my grandmother’s legacy through our family’s involvement through the next generation. I spearheaded that with my cousins and there are about seven of us involved at the moment. My whole life story with the Special Olympics is that I grew up 10 minutes away from my grandmother who started the Special Olympics.”

Molly credits her time spent at Camp Shriver, her grandmother’s influence, and her education - both at The Woods and beyond - to a career committed to serving others. She is most certainly “leading a life of significance.”

Molly Shriver was a Student Council Rep at The Woods Academy in Bethesda, MD