As the Northside-based non-profit draws toward its fifth year, it is thrilled to announce that.
PhD has taken the reins as Chair of the Board of Directors. Monaco, 74, is a leadership consultant and retired educator. A native of New York, he is an alum of New York University and earned his PhD from the University of Dayton.
Monaco began his teaching career in New York City and worked for 18 years as the Principal of Summit Country Day School’s upper school. He also spent 25 years coaching football, wrestling and baseball. He has served as a volunteer consultant with the Executive Service Corps in Cincinnati for nearly a decade. During that time, he has advised dozens of regional nonprofits, including Talbert House, Lighthouse Youth Services, the United Way, Linden Grove School [for autism], Healthy Moms & Babes, and the Social Action team at our Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.
He readily agreed to answer a few questions and offer insights about why he took on this new role.
When did you know what you wanted to do when you grew up?
I took my first job at age 22 after we had just married, and taught where my Mother was teaching English. I really didn’t “know” what I wanted to do until I had taught and coached that first year and I loved it all.
When was the first time you visited Northside? Why did you come and what were your first impressions?
Many years ago, we went to the opening of David Falk’s original Boca restaurant. I thought it was like an old-fashioned New York neighborhood.
How did you first hear about WordPlay? What were your first impressions?
Three years ago, WordPlay co-founder Libby Hunter enrolled in the leadership program I lead. She spoke a lot about the agency, which then was just a year old. The idea and design sounded terrific, and as a life-long educator, it really appealed to me.
What did you think the first time you walked through the doors of WordPlay?
I was absolutely intrigued by the passion and engagement of both the young people and the staff and volunteers. It provided a warm, welcoming and lively environment.
What drew you toward the organization?
My belief in education as the primary and necessary component of community development and improved life opportunities drew me to WordPlay.
What surprised and/or surprises you about the organization?
The seemingly endless energy of the two founders and the passion exhibited by both the staff and volunteers is a remarkable and pleasant surprise. The quality of the activities, so far beyond the simple aftercare norm was another, and the work that the students produced in the various programs was also surprising in the best of ways.
What do you think are WordPlay’s strengths?
Certainly, the vision and passion of the co-founders first and foremost, but also the commitment to serve the community through the educational support of the young people who live in and around this neighborhood. The great staff and volunteers and committed board members are also key strengths. The creative and student-centric programs are also significant.
What is its mission and why does that matter?
The WordPlay Cincy core values of “Community, Innovation, Transformation and Education” are manifested in its mission statement: “Transforming communities through innovation and education.” The values and mission of a nonprofit provide the direction, purpose and pathway of servant leadership which improves the lives of those in need.
What is your vision for WordPlay over the next year? Next two years? Next five years?
In these often challenging times it is generally considered prudent for nonprofits to operate strategically from both a shorter and longer-term vision. In the next year or so, WordPlay’s Board seeks to follow a strategic plan focused on program refinement and development and in resource-building to support those program components. Longer term, the Board sees the growth of the experimentally based WordPlay programs as a model for other communities and regions with whom we hope to collaborate in service to young people and their communities.
How can those reading this paper help close the summer education gap in Northside? Why should they?
We know that kids lose ground over the summer when they are out of school. The summer and other vacation breaks are always a great challenge and a great opportunity for educators. The WordPlay Cincy website provides both a description of the school-year programs as well as the Saturday and summer programs. All of these efforts can always use the support of the Northside community as well as all Greater Cincinnatians. We welcome everyone to support us with their time, treasure and talents.
By Elissa Yancey, co-founder and Past Board Chair, WordPlay Cincy, and a 20+ year Northside resident.