Michelle Monnat, 30: Children’s Home of Jefferson County

 

The paths were many for Michelle Monnat, but her journey has kept her in the north country, where she serves in a variety of roles at the Children’s Home of Jefferson County.

Her life could have gone in many different directions. She thought of becoming a veterinarian, fueled by a love of animals. Politics was another possibility; she served as an intern for three summers on former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s staff, helping with regional projects. Despite being energized by the senator, something about the world of politics just didn’t fit.

“You can make big changes in terms of legislation, but it was more important to me to work with the more generational things right in your community,” she said.

The Lowville native’s road became clearer as an undergraduate at St. Lawrence University, studying psychology, and later completing a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

A therapy internship during her master’s studies started her work at the Children’s Home and, during the past seven years, she has risen to take on a range of different challenges. At 28, she led the organization’s foster care department, helping to oversee care for 100 children as their cases worked through the family court system.

“You have an opportunity to intervene in a part of a person’s life,” Ms. Monnat said. “You could be the powder keg that sets them on the trajectory toward success.”

Ms. Monnat’s powder keg may have been her parents, who instilled the value of hard work starting with her earliest childhood chores.

“You always do it right the first time,” she said. “The concept is to never put off until tomorrow what you could do today.”

Growing up, Ms. Monnat said her parents looked to find role models like doctors, lawyers and teachers to help inspire her and her older sister, Shannon, become the first generation in their family to go to college.

“Exposing me to these people inspired me to be a professional at some level,” Ms. Monnat said.

In February, she became information technology manager for the Children’s Home, a position they had unsuccessfully tried to fill for two years.

Karen Richmond, the nonprofit’s executive director, said Ms. Monnat stepped up to complete training for the job despite it being outside her comfort zone.

“She’s versatile,” Mrs. Richmond said. “She’s so unique, in that she starves for challenges. She loves to succeed.”

Ms. Monnat’s work will prove critical as the state looks to apply strict standards for electronic record-keeping among health care facilities. Computer systems at the Children’s Home must maintain security and confidentiality of patient records, while allowing access for providers that need it.

Mrs. Richmond said Ms. Monnat jumped at the opportunity to take training from the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization to help improve the organization’s efforts.

“She’s not an 8 to 4 person,” Mrs. Richmond said. “She’s a hard worker. She looks at it as being a gift to her.”

Ms. Monnat’s efforts were evident as the Children’s Home recently shifted some of its offices, but saw a massive slowdown in Internet speed during that change. Working between staff inside and outside the organization, she was able to find ways to get their systems back to full speed.

“She just got into it,” Mrs. Richmond said. “She kept digging and digging and digging.”

Asked what she wants for her future, Ms. Monnat said she felt she would continue to grow and evolve. One goal is to become a director of a facility like the Children’s Home, or possibly go into law to help children like those she sees at the Children’s Home.

Regardless of what her future holds, Ms. Monnat said she is happy with the progress she’s made so far.

“It’s been an interesting ride, but I wouldn’t change a moment of it.”

— by Gordon Block

Monnat_Michelle

The Michelle Monnat File

Hometown: Lowville

Professional position: Quality assurance, information technology manager, Children’s Home of Jefferson County

Family: Parents, Paul and Christina Monnat; sister, Shannon

Education: Bachelor’s in psychology and master’s in mental health counseling, St. Lawrence University

Community involvement: Board member, North Country Council of Social Agencies; alumni advisor, Kappa Kappa Gamma, St. Lawrence University

Last book read: “Three Little Words” by Ashley Rhodes-Courter