Girls Inc. of Santa Barbara’s mission is to impact young women in our community — and their track record is remarkable.
This is greatly due to the resolve of the nonprofit organization’s executive director, Monica Spear. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Monica for a decade now, and her quiet drive and determination in securing great opportunities to inspire young girls is remarkable. And she can continually do so, because Monica, like Girls Inc., is strong, smart, and bold.
She took time away from guiding future leaders to answer the Proust questionnaire.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Strong, smart, and bold — the three key words of the mission of Girls Inc. have come to be very important to me, not just in my work for equity and opportunity for all girls, but also in regard to my own life. They are words that independently are meaningful, and together compose a representation of the person I continually strive to be, and what I hope will be part of my legacy.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Of all of the things I’ve accomplished to date, I am probably most gratified in being able to consider myself a role model for others, particularly for girls. I am proud of who I am and the way I lead my life, and feel I have demonstrated that what matters most is not how many times you may fall, but that you persevere, with dignity, integrity, and grace.
What do you most value in friends?
That they love me exactly as I am, lumpy bits and all. I value their unwavering love and support of me always, no questions asked, and that I can be vulnerable with them without being judged. I value too the many memories we’ve created together.
What is it you like most about your job?
What I love most is what I experience on any given day at Girls Inc.: girls writing poetry, playing basketball, becoming economically literate, acting in drama productions, forming lifelong friendships, building robots, challenging themselves in gymnastics, creating original works of art, participating in hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities, and much more — all examples of girls actively engaged in programs that promote self-confidence, equity, exploration, and fun!
Unfortunately, even in today’s world, girls still receive the message that what they look like is more important than who they are or what they do, so knowing that my work at Girls Inc. in a small way is helping change that, and is part of the reason so many girls of our community have and will reach their full potential, are inspired to dream big dreams, and empowered to make those dreams come true, is the most rewarding “job” I can imagine.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Achieving a state of internal peace and harmony by being completely true to and secure with myself. And, good wine, cheese, and chocolate make me perfectly happy, too.
What is your greatest fear?
That I’ll not have wisdom to know the difference between those things I can change and those I cannot. I’m very determined and definitely like a challenge, so fear I may not let things go when I should, and instead will fight for an outcome that I may desire, but will never be.
Who do you most admire?
I most admire those who pursue their dreams, no matter the hardships, risks, and sacrifices they must endure to reach them, and those who have the courage and confidence to believe that what others think of them is none of their business.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Staying in a luxury hotel, with room service, pay-per-view movies, and spa facilities/services.
What is your current state of mind?
One of optimism for the future; hope for change and equity; and gratitude for opportunities and blessings.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Kindness — defined as a virtue, a value, behavior marked by ethical characteristics and concern for others. A quick wit and sense of humor are also qualities I very much appreciate.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
People who are demeaning, who make others seem of little or less importance or value.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’d like to say brilliant or witty, but then that would mean it’s actually lack of self-awareness and wishful thinking. So, I’ll go with diplomatic, loyal, and diligent as characteristics people might attribute to me.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’ve always wanted to be the girl on the flying trapeze — it seems so daring, liberating, and glamorous, all at the same time! I’d also like to play tennis well, and be able to paint/create/sing in a way that is reflective of my inner vision and voice.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To be more spontaneous, and not overthink or take myself or things (like these questions!) too seriously.
Where would you most like to live?
Being a California girl, only ever having lived in this state, I would like to live in a different state or country for some part of my life. Perhaps Italy, which is so beautiful and where I feel a special connection because of my heritage. Or perhaps somewhere I don’t know of yet. Until that time may come, home is where the heart is, and that is Santa Barbara.
What is your most treasured possession?
Photographs of and with my family and friends, and a $2 bill given to me by my grandfather when I was a little girl, with a special note from him. I carry it in my wallet today, as a reminder of him, his love for me, and all that I learned from him.
What makes you laugh the most?
Comedy films, the children in my life (nieces/nephews, Girls Inc. girls), my friends, family, and myself!
On what occasion do you lie?
Rarely, when I think it’s necessary to protect someone that needs protection, which in some instances, may include me.
What is your motto?
Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often. I try to incorporate all of these things into every day, as much as possible.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Amelia Earhart, the first woman and second person to fly solo across the Atlantic, after which, she stated that this this proved that men and women were equal in “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness, and willpower.” I admire her for her courage, vision, and trailblazing achievements in aviation and for women, and I identify most with her adventurous spirit, strong conviction, and perseverance.