If you have ever met Monique Ingram, you know that she is an amazing woman who gives her all to her commitments and truly changes the lives she touches for the better. She is involved in many aspects of our community from her role as a health educator for Roanoke’s Planned Parenthood Health Services to volunteering with the Showtimers Community Theatre. Her interests have taken her around the world, and we feel very fortunate that she continues to share her knowledge and experience with the people in our area.
What inspired you to get involved with Planned Parenthood?
As an adolescent, I found out that my grandmother had breast cancer and I didn’t know what that meant until she was leaving us. I remember hearing conversations in hushed tones between my family members about doctors and reproductive health. After she died, I knew I wanted to have a career where I could teach people, particularly women, about their bodies and how to help themselves.
I thought the only way I could do something with women’s reproductive health was to be a doctor or an OBGYN. I started talking to people at Roanoke College, particularly Dr. Deneen Evans. We discussed how to craft my academic career to achieve my goals. There was a need in our area for women of color, and for women in general, to know their choices and how to find their voice when it came to reproductive healthcare.
My mom helped encourage me to fill that void. She is a strong woman, a minster. We started out in a small community where she was told she couldn’t be a preacher. She found a church home where they embraced women in ministry. I recognized that same fire in me too, and I started to create my own path. I looked into an internship at Planned Parenthood, and there I was mentored by Dina Hackley-Hunt. I used to watch her and think, “Man, I want to be just like her.” Some of my students say that about me now, and it’s crazy because I can’t believe I’ve come full circle.
After I completed my undergraduate degree, I went home for a while before deciding that I wanted to go to graduate school at Virginia Tech. There was a job opening at Planned Parenthood. I thought, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to get that because I need my masters degree.”
However, my mom encouraged me and told me to apply because I might get it. I did, and they hired me.
I am so thankful for all of the wonderful women in my life. They’ve invited me to climb on their shoulders and see the endless possibilities of the world. They knew I would have a limited vantage point from my place on the ground. I love them so much for encouraging me to dream bigger, be better, and pay it forward.
What is your wish for every woman?
I wish that every woman could have the time and the space to find her voice—to figure out how loud she wants it to be and when or if she wants to use it. That is my wish for every person. It’s a difficult thing to try to figure out who you are and it takes time, effort, and some tears. You have to flesh out what you’re scared of, what you’re willing to stand for, and how you’re willing to grow. Growth is a huge part of finding your voice and figuring out who you are. One of my favorite quotes is, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a member at the Showtimers Community Theatre, and I’ve been part of that family for about ten years. I don’t mind being on stage, but I adore being stage manager. I love being behind the scenes and bossing people around. That’s my comfort zone. I’m the cochair of the hospitality committee and we put on all the opening night parties for our patrons and actors to thank them for their support. Actors are volunteers, so they don’t get paid. This gives us an opportunity to recognize the gift of their time and efforts. Showtimers couldn’t happen if it weren’t for the patrons and the actors.
I am also an education partner with Project Real Talk, an all girls leadership and life enhancement nonprofit in Roanoke. Additionally, I serve on the board of Girls Rock Roanoke.
What do the upcoming months have in store for you?
This summer, I will travel to Uganda to work with women and children who are HIV positive and hopefully shadow some educators in and around Kampala. I want to listen and learn how certain educators in other parts of the world approach sex education, particularly in areas where it is difficult to be comprehensive about it.
In July, I will be going to Cyprus to work with high school students from around the United States on a service learning trip. Then, I will head back to Roanoke and start graduate school to get my Master of Public Health degree.
I am also hoping to help schedule “Are You An Askable Parent?” workshops through Planned Parenthood for parents and adults that work with young people and teenagers. The goal is to get them to a place where they feel comfortable having conversations with young people about sex education. Ultimately, our goal is to get parents to a place where they feel more comfortable having those conversations no matter what is going on with their teens or how they identify.
Visit our website during the month of June for Monique’s full interview! If you are interested in learning more about the programs that Planned Parenthood offers our community, go to www.plannedparenthood.org. To view a full list of upcoming performances by The Showtimers Community Theatre, visit www.showtimers.org.