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Leadership was a matter of learning by doing for Monica Horton.
As a young professional working in Tallahassee, Florida’s juvenile justice system, she found leadership opportunities at work were limited. But Horton recognized her job had an impact on the community – and thought she could leverage that.
“Part of becoming an emerging leader in your industry or career is recognizing a need in your community that your workplace was designed to address or solve,” Horton says.
She jumped in and volunteered for a citizens advisory committee to promote awareness of issues pertaining to women and girls in the area.
“I realized that collective actions at the policy level can address the root causes of youth involvement in the juvenile justice system,” she says.
That was a lightbulb moment. Horton’s light still shines brightly now in Springfield’s civic sector. The founder and CEO of Lenica Consulting Group LLC applied for and handily won an open seat on Springfield City Council by special vote of its members earlier this year.
But prior, she’s been leveraging her consulting skills for a few nonprofits. Horton has earned grants and secured funding for Music Therapy of the Ozarks, in 2015-17, and for Ujima Language and Literacy, since 2019.
“I’ve helped secure thousands of dollars for dozens of Ozarks children with disabilities and children whose families are in pursuit of their highest levels of literacy,” Horton says.
The efforts have been award winning. In 2019 and 2020, Horton received the Education Award from the NAACP Springfield Branch for service to Ujima Language and Literacy and the Black History Summer Academy. The following year, she was nominated as Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year by the Association for Fundraising Professionals local chapter.
Horton’s passion for literacy led her to be appointed board president of Ujima Language and Literacy, a position she’s held since 2019. In that time, the board’s grown to 13 members and the annual budget is up fivefold to $53,000. Last year, Horton earned a $12,000 grant to develop a five-year plan to expand the group’s family literacy nights and launch additional family advocacy programming.
Awards again seem to follow her work, and Ujima was named 2020 Startup Organization of the Year at the Nonprofit Excellence Awards by FORVIS LLP.
She’s also parlayed her past leadership experience into roles as a board member of Leadership Springfield, treasurer of Greene County’s $2.9 million annual Senior Citizens’ Services Fund, member of the Mayor’s Commission for Children and deputy treasurer for two school board campaigns.
Next, she plans to launch a campaign for council in 2023. But her eyes are on more than that seat. “I want to help more people get elected to public office in Springfield and also the state level so that our city can have responsive and equal representation at all levels of public governance,” she says.
The first downtown Springfield branch for Arvest Bank opened; a longtime licensed massage therapist became a first-time business owner; and 7 Brew Coffee opened its fourth shop in Springfield.