Baltimore County Leader Insight: Jackie LaMonica


LBC image with photo of Jackie backpacking with climbing gear. Jackie LaMonica. Program Director, Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center

A Special Interview: September 2023


What is the mission of GVOLC?
Our mission is to provide quality learning experiences that promote growth and nourish the development of individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Community, challenging comfort zone, and leadership are our top values.

Tell us about a time when you saw the GVOLC mission in action.
I see GVOLC’s mission in action every time people step foot at Genesee Valley – I see participants, staff, teachers, administration, and co-workers connect with each other in a natural space outside of work or school. I see them create new learned connections about personalities, leadership patterns, learning styles, and general well-being for their fellow humans. Our staff help to form a space where participants can share experiences and bind those experiences into daily life.

What trends do you see in adult groups as they work on leadership and communication skills?
Adults generally start out reserved and skeptical then transform throughout the experience to being open, authentic, and willing. When taking adults out of the workplace, there is a sense of stress about not working that then progresses toward connecting with others. GVOLC creates an even playing field for all adults to work together and then process this information back to their work lives. At GVOLC we are able to simulate low risk activities that break down the barriers to discuss our feelings, challenges, goals and experiences.

What life experience has most shaped who you are as a leader?
Having various responsibilities as a child and beyond has helped me to recognize the importance of thriving versus surviving. Being raised on a farm, I had space to make mistakes. I also learned the cost of those mistakes – not watering the plants, not putting the chickens away at night, forgetting to turn the watering hose off, etc. Those moments taught me how care, guidance, and support lead to success in these responsibilities or not. To be a successful leader, you must want everyone around you and your organization to grow and thrive. Forming into a leader is a JOURNEY as it consists of relationship building, performance, and trust! Trust between the mission of the organization, your co-workers and yourself is a process that takes time to grow. The moments when I felt my leadership come to fruition were when I put myself on the front line with my staff and was part of the magic work that makes Genesee Valley amazing. Being able to share those moments with your staff, be vulnerable and real makes for stronger team connections.

In your opinion, what personal trait is most important to being a good leader and why?
Being willing to do ALL/ANY of the work that is needed for your organization to thrive. This doesn’t mean doing all the work directly but being willing to support your staff in getting the work done well. Like I mentioned above, being willing to be on the front line with them to get work done is so valuable for relationship building to continue to grow and develop staff!