“Kids Dance Outreach allows us to equitably and inclusively step into classrooms where all children, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they are wearing can be transformed to a new reality.”
Dance has been an integral part of Mónica Muñoz’s life for as long as she can remember. As Associate director of Kids Dance Outreach (KDO), she is able to use her passion for dance to inspire and empower children in the KDO programs. KDO focuses on equity and inspiring excellence and confidence through their self-developed dance education model, where children can participate for free.
“It allows us to equitably and inclusively step into classrooms where all children, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they are wearing can be transformed to a new reality. A reality where they can thrive, where they can grow, where they can connect collectively and individually.”
Mónica started dancing at the age of 5 and quickly discovered her passion for it. “I don’t remember a time when I was not dancing. My older sister was a dance student, and I was always sort of there, waiting for her to be done with classes.” She began her professional career after training with the Conservatory of Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico. After graduating, she moved from Puerto Rico to the US, where she joined the Milwaukee Ballet and later the Louisville Ballet. She later attended Butler University where she got her degree. It was here where she met Michael Johnson, the founder of KDO. After hearing Michael’s vision of a dance outreach program for kids, Mónica volunteered as part of the launch team.
“It almost felt like if there was ever a time to take a risk and the learning process to take on what does it take to start a nonprofit – this is the time.” This year, KDO is celebrating their 10th anniversary. In their 10 years, they have reached over 16,000 kids through their programming.
As the Associate Director, Mónica became a self-proclaimed spreadsheet extraordinaire, but that was never something she thought of as her calling. She had only ever dreamed of teaching dance. She even got her degree in pedagogy instead of business admin because she hated the idea of working with computers and spreadsheets. But she realized that having experiences in both areas has helped her stay in tune with KDO’s mission.
“It was eye opening to have all these passions and these preconceived notions of what I thought I wanted all shattered and rebuilt in service of the mission of KDO. The mission fuels our work, it fuels our momentum, it fuels our fundraising. As I am doing grants, spreadsheets, and scheduling, children and programming are at the forefront. We are positioned in a very unique way that our leadership has professional dance experience and is both choreographing and teaching in the classrooms, but we are also the backbone of the organization development and strategy. I think it is an Asset that we have this acquired skillset to understand arts admin but we also all remain so closely connected to the work, the mission, and the children. When you are writing grant language or writing spreadsheets, it’s not just numbers and words, you are telling the story and advocating for the children that you see in your classroom.”
Mónica might not have pictured her life or career going in this direction, but it is evident in her story that she would not change a thing about it.
“I jumped in open to the opportunity thinking ‘we’re doing a great thing, we’re going to change children’s lives’ and here we are 10 years later, not just having transformed thousands of children and their families, but also how the work and organization has transformed our lives- It is truly powerful work we are passionate about it and we are dedicated and committed to the families and communities we serve.”
You can learn more about Mónica and her work at Kids Dance Outreach here.