CAPE CORAL, Fla. — A teen in Cape Coral has been recognized as one of the top female divers around the world for her ocean conversation efforts. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors also known as Padi named Maddy Molina as one of the Top 11 Female Divers Around the World Cultivating Hope in 2023.
Molina started snorkeling in the Caribbean at 3 years old and became a certified scuba diver at just 10 years old. However, it was during her trip to Hawaii that she realized something was happening to the coral reefs.
"The coral was brown or white just dead. There were barely any fish and the water was cloudy," said Molina.
From there Molina traveled to Moorea and Bora Bora, places she felt the coral and marine life seemed to be in better condition. She worked with a group called the Coral Gardeners while visiting those islands. They're a locally based organization working to restore corals one reef at a time.
"I was able to plant coral with them and be a part of the community in that sense."
She then brought that knowledge and her passion back to the United States. She created videos showing the condition of the water, the efforts people are putting in to make a difference and examples of how others can help. She then shared those videos to help raise donations for organizations around the world working to restore coral reefs. It's that hard work that landed her on PADI's list of women divers.
"It really did inspire me more because it made me feel like I was making an impact and doing something to help the world," she said. "I was just shocked and excited."
While most teens may be thinking about their weekend plans, this 15-year-old has been looking into scuba refresher courses and planning meetings with more organizations. Her next stop will be in the Florida Keys where she plans to meet with a coral reef restoration organization to learn what techniques they're using to save the corals.
"I want to be around for when we explore more parts of the ocean and I want to be around to enjoy it while it's healthy."
Molina knows people are usually shocked to discover what she's trying to accomplish at such a young age. However, she said she was fortunate enough to find her passion early in life and hopes it shows others you don't have to be all grown up to make a difference in this world.
"You don't know what your passion is until you try it. You can learn a lot about yourself by trying new things."