Science journalist and Sacred Heart Preparatory (SHP) alumna Molly Peterson (SJS `86, SHP `90) recently came back to campus to produce an episode on Northern California Public Media’s Living Downstream podcast, using the school’s podcast recording room in the Campbell Center for the task.
Mentoring a trio of emerging journalists, Olivia Rodriguez Mendez, Rosa Gonzalez, and Adriana Torres, Peterson co-wrote the episode with Mendez, titled, “The Sea Next Door
,” which explores environmental and social impacts on the community living around the Salton Sea.
“I’m really proud of what my young reporters and producer and I made—but it wouldn’t have sounded any good at all if we hadn’t had access to a quiet room and state-of-the-art equipment. A real Room Of One’s Own moment, which is fitting, given Connie Solari’s syllabus,” said Peterson in a nod to her favorite English teacher at SHP in the late ‘80s.
A fourth-generation alumna of Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton (SHS), Peterson spoke about how her 12 years at SHS instilled in her values that inform her work as a journalist.
“Part of my commitment in the project in bringing somebody from the Salton Sea back to Sacred Heart was to train these student journalists and work with the producer—developing skills and resources that can be left with the community. To me that’s a Sacred Heart value—the idea that you are nurtured by the community, you have a relationship with it, and you return something to it,” said Peterson.
Peterson grew up interested in the law and government; her father was a lawyer and grandfather was on the California Supreme Court. After graduating from SHP, she studied at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, majoring in international politics, relations, law, and organization, and in African and Asian studies. “My advisor was a Sacred Heart nun named Marilyn McMorrow—she helped me connect with Sacred Heart schools in Congo.”
As the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Hoya, she was soon reporting on what the RSCJ nuns were relating to her from the 1994 Rwandan genocide. “They said, ‘can you tell somebody this is happening?’ I was a 20-year-old college student thinking, ‘why do I know this and nobody else does?’”
Political and governmental accountability reporting remained important to Peterson, as she moved to Louisiana from Los Angeles in 2005 when Katrina hit.
“I thought we owed a duty of care to each other as Americans. And I thought we had to not treat Louisiana like somehow it was different from the rest of the United States. They’re not wrong to live there—it’s a climate disaster.”
In 2005, that sentiment was not widespread, Peterson explained. “I felt the way I felt because I’d been educated to understand the relationships we have to each other in these systems of government and law. We are connected to the world, and we are always connected to each other—Donna Gilboa gave me that,” she said, acknowledging another SHP teacher.
“For me, it is our job to seek the truth, the whole truth. The full understanding of the world. And Sacred Heart made it our job to seek a full understanding of the world.”