Profile: Mari Morales
A Ray of Light
All thriving communities, regardless of socio-economic status, tend to have active community members that go above and beyond the call of duty. Individuals who are innately altruistic and kind play a vital role in strengthening the foundation of our most outstanding neighborhoods and cities. In the great City of Inglewood, one such advocate, activist and ally to all, is Mari Morales-Rodriguez.
Founder of the non-profit, One For All (OFA), Mari Morales-Rodriguez is dedicated to encouraging students to simply do the right thing: go to school, make good grades, steer clear of gangs and stay out of trouble. The mission of One For All is to empower youth through community-based programs which instill an everlasting sense of personal pride, academic achievement and distinct accomplishment. What’s event better, is that Mari does this from the kindness of her heart; a true-blue do-gooder. The daughter of a politician in El Salvador, who also had a passion for helping the poor, this work is in her DNA. But, when asked how she got started, Mari replies, “…it began with a kid named Beto.”
In 2006, Beto’s older brother became an unfortunate statistic of gang violence. Mari, who was a neighbor, took a strong interest in seeing to it that Beto did not also fall into the same trap. She guided the 13-year-old.
“I would say, ‘Beto make sure you go to school…’ I would talk to his parents and say, ‘don’t let Beto hang out with the wrong crowd.’ Over time, Beto stayed out of trouble. He didn’t always do the right thing, like with many adolescents, but today he is working and is a productive member of our community.” -Mari Morales
The encounter with Beto profoundly inspired Mari. She realized that she could not only make a difference in Beto’s life, but in the lives of many more young people in Inglewood. So, in 2007 Mari Founded One For All, to be the change she wanted to see. Today through OFA, Mari works with elementary schools in Inglewood to identify and help the neediest students. During the school year, she works with teachers to develop creative projects for which the students are rewarded. Through merit-based system, OFA’s student programming emphasizes the importance of getting good grades, always modeling positive character traits and understanding the value of hard work.
Twice a year OFA hosts two big events; one is the Back to School Summer event (Save The Date: August 11th), where OFA gives away back packs and school supplies. The students are required to bring their report card from the previous school year and are compensated (with fake-money), according to the grades that they have received. Students that are not doing well in school are supported and encouraged to enroll in tutoring. The second major event is a winter toy drive for students.
Looking ahead, Mari envisions doing even more for the community, and there is plenty on the horizon. After years of self-funding and pooling resources, she was able to offer scholarships through OFA with the help of a kind angel investor; and used a portion of that donation to pay for the Back to School event supplies. In addition, a local developer has donated office space to the organization. So, this summer OFA will move into its new home—in a fully renovated Downtown Inglewood building. Stay tuned for the official announcement!
Please join us in congratulating Mari Morales-Rodriguez and One For All.