Inspiring Connectedness - Part II

Close to fifty years after Françoise moved to Seattle, Monica Armstrong made a similar decision and made the move from northern Michigan. Monica whose career is also in Finance, works at HomeStreet Bank and was the main instructor for Jubilee’s Money Management course. Her goal in building the curriculum was to break down barriers around financial information. Monica wanted participants to be able to understand what they were reading when it came to money in any scenario. To do this she knew she needed a comprehensive program that addressed everything needed to understand the financial systems in the USA at a basic level – everything from “what is money” to how banking, credit, lending, and debt work.

Monica strived to make it clear in every class that she was not there to judge anyone or tell them what to do with their money. All that mattered, was that participants had the knowledge to make informed choices. Her hope was that every move they made financially was a decision based on understanding their options and weighing which was best for them. Monica played an important role in empowering Jubilee participants by providing access to financial literacy. Her impact on participants continues to resonate years later. Jubilee alumnae have contacted her years after completing the program to share accomplishments – getting an apartment, finding a job, or starting a family. Monica is thrilled every time these conversations happen, she loves to see people that she cares about thriving.

Monica holds a strong conviction of compassion, education, and being a trustworthy resource for others. These core values stem from her favorite person in the world, her Grandma Ruth who passed away in 2010. She showed Monica what it means to be a loving, compassionate person in a world that is often harsh. Grandma Ruth instilled in Monica the belief that no matter what is happening in your life, it is always possible to respond with kindness. These reflections have led her to understand what kind of person she wants to be and live with clear intentions. Those intentions and expectations shifted drastically after Monica moved to Seattle and came out as gay the second time at age twenty-six. When Monica came out the first time at thirteen in Northern Michigan, she was put in conversion therapy. Conversion therapy, which is illegal in Washington state, convinced her that any feelings of homosexuality were false and would disappear when she “got better.” She was taught that being gay doomed a person to an unhappy life, and that she had to choose between being loved and being herself. It took moving to Seattle to learn for herself that those beliefs were actually the wrong ones, and to accept herself.

In Seattle she found a community of LGBTQIA+ people who were happy, stable, wonderful people. Meeting older couples showed her that her sexuality was not, in fact, a phase – she realized that her feelings were not meant to go away and that she could live authentically and with love. It shifted her whole mindset of the world, because suddenly things were possible that she had never let herself dream about — having a family, feeling fulfilled, belonging. With these new possibilities in mind, Monica changed the trajectory of her life to align with what was important to her.

Monica is grateful for the women in her life who taught her how to be the person she is today, loved ones, friends, even strangers who took the time to guide, correct, or educate her. The most inspirational women in Monica’s life now are her friends, most of whom she works with in music. Their group, Mägi Ensemble, has a core mission to uplift other women in music. Individually, they each inspire Monica with their dedication and perseverance, both in music and in their personal lives. As each of them meet challenges in life, they find support and wisdom from each other. The group feels like family Monica got to choose, and for her being around them feels like home.