Daniela Monge, our advisor at Hope High School and E-Cubed Academy, is a graduate of Wheaton College and just completed her master’s in education from Providence College. Prior to coming to the Crusade, she worked closely with at-risk individuals for four years at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections
1. Before coming to the Onward We Learn, you worked with inmates at the ACI. What kind of work did you do and how did your perception of incarcerated people change during that time?
I worked on research studies focused on mental health management for the inmate population in Rhode Island. I primarily worked on suicide prevention, bipolar disorder and anger management studies. I essentially recruited new participants and interviewed them for a year. I spent A LOT of time inside all the facilities – intake, minimum, medium, max and women’s – meeting with inmates as well as navigating through a jail system. I used to have a “black or white” perspective on why people end up in jail, but I learned it is so much more complex than that. I got to see the whole picture and really understand why someone was serving time to begin with. Most times their crime was a product of mismanaged mental health, huge lack of resources in their community and systemic inequality. Working with this population for so long helped me look at people as a whole and take a more holistic perspective on things.
2. You started at the Onward We Learn in the midst of the pandemic. What techniques or strategies have you used to connect with your students virtually, especially your graduating seniors?
Building connections with students virtual is hard! I don’t have the face value portion to help students trust me. It was a lot of trial and error as well as not taking things personal. What has helped me build connections with students especially with the seniors is to make sure the first time we talk is via Zoom so they see my face and to give them the space to ask me any question they would like. I also encourage them to text me. This has helped a lot with working around their work schedule and extracurricular activities.
3. Now that you’ve completed your master’s degree and have all kinds of free time on your hands (haha), what do you look forward to pursuing?
I am so excited to finally have free time! I really want to start reading more fiction books now that I don’t have schoolwork to worry about. I am also working on starting a food blog, which I am very excited about.
4. From your work with high school students, what is one thing you want older generations to know about teenagers today?
These kids are so resilient! They have handled their school work, applying to college, work, family life all during the pandemic. I want older generations to know how much these students have been through and came out of it so successfully.
5. Summer is almost here! What is your favorite summertime activity or pastime here in the Ocean State?
If you know me, you know I am obsessed with Rhode Island! I am existed for beach days, Del’s, Brickley’s Ice Cream and PVD Fest! Especially getting ice cream; my family and I go once a week during the summer. We try to go to a different local spot
6. If you could go back to high school and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to be braver and take chances. I was so shy in high school that I never tried new things or was scared to.
7. What have you binge-watched lately?
I binge-watch “Grey’s Anatomy” and “New Girl” on rotation. I’ve watched Grey’s seven times since I first started watching back in college. I did take a break from Grey’s and watched “Who Killed Sara?” on Netflix.
8. What is on your travel bucket list?
I really want to visit all seven continents. I have Antarctica, Asia and Australia left. Getting to Antarctica is going to be interesting.
9. What is your phone lock screen photo? Is there a story behind it?
It’s a quote “good things are coming.” I wanted a constant reminder to stay positive whenever I feel things aren’t going well. It used to be a picture of my dog Winston but I couldn’t be that dog lady anymore.
10. What reality show would you want to be on?
My guilty pleasure is “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” I really want to be on the show to see what it’s like to live like a Kardashian. I am just so intrigued by their lifestyle and chaos.
What was your first job before college?
I was a waitress/hostess at Mi Guatemala the summer before college. It was really fun; I got a lot of free food. My dad is friends with the owner so he kind of made up the hostess role to give me a summer job.