As a high school student enrolled in several honors level classes, Monica Godbee excelled in all her subjects but felt most passionate about the cello. On the encouragement of her music teacher, she went on to pursue a degree in music at the University of Miami with support from the Sheila Carr Prensky Designated Scholar Loan (DSL) at The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis. There, she was able to advance her craft and teach cello to local children, as well. While enrolled in her undergraduate program, Monica received regular advice and support from Teresa Steinkamp, Director of Advising, on topics related to responsible borrowing and personal finance. Growing up, Monica’s family incurred many financial difficulties and she felt “money was the source of much conflict” within her household. Through her research of The Scholarship Foundation’s dedication to providing sensible and sustainable financial solutions for students such as herself, she became aware of the positive impacts financial literacy can have on one’s life. While her heart belonged to music, her intellectual pursuits were turning towards the business sector.
Monica’s father passed away after a long struggle with COPD and emphysema as Monica’s senior year of college was coming to a close. A retired mail carrier, he was leery of seeking regular medical care throughout his life for fear of the additional costs associated with doctor’s visits. Monica returned home to St. Louis to assist her mother, a Japanese American immigrant, former waitress, and cancer survivor, with organizing the household finances. Taking a year off after graduation, Monica did “a considerable amount of reading about personal finance” and worked at a Montessori daycare while considering her next steps. Ultimately, she decided that while music was one of her passions, financial literacy and access to affordable health care were her true calling.
Monica enrolled in the business school at the University of Missouri in 2014, a year after earning her bachelor’s degree. While in graduate school, she took advantage of both the Foundation’s repayment deferment option and regular campus advisor visits from the Foundation’s advising team. Monica credits these check-ins and the steadfast support of her DSL donor, Arthur Prensky, to whom she wrote while she was an undergraduate, for bolstering her confidence in her pursuit of both an MBA (Master of Business Administration) and an MHA (Master of Health Administration) from the University of Missouri.
Five years later, Monica has paid off her interest-free, fee-free Foundation loan and is living in Portland, Oregon where she is currently a Program Manager within the Northwest Telehealth Center at Kaiser Permanente. In her work there, she says she has “gotten to see what holistic healthcare (including dental and vision) looks like” in Oregon, a state that prioritizes coordinated care for its residents. “I have always dreamed of working at Kaiser Permanente,” says Monica, and she believes her parents’ lives would have been different had they been able to seek more affordable health care. “We need to break down peoples’ fears about healthcare access,” Monica believes. And even though she admits the pace of change is slow, she finds the work inspiring and is eager to empower others by working towards dismantling complexities that serve as barriers.
In her early thirties now, Monica owns a lovely home, has a great job she loves, and will be getting married soon. While she misses her family and roots in St. Louis, she is pleased to be learning all she can about increasing access to healthcare for all people. She says that one day she may move home to Missouri to work in healthcare reform. She adds, “My dream is to one day reach financial independence and become a Scholarship Foundation donor myself.”