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Mary-Jo Monusky is the Executive Director at Arts In Reach (AIR).

What does AIR do and how do you do it? Arts In Reach (AIR) is a nonprofit organization that provides access to arts and mentoring for at-risk girls ages 13 to 20 from Southeastern New Hampshire.  AIR cultivates teenage girls’ creativity, self-confidence, healthy relationships, and critical life, work and leadership skills. In addition to creating arts themselves, our girls have the chance to attend various regional cultural venues and public performances.

What keeps you up at night?  We have teens who are suicidal, living in homeless shelters, socially isolated, or dealing with substance abuse in their families. When sharing with the group about the town they were from, a teen who was staying at a Children’s Home said, “I am from nowhere.” In response to a survey question about the impact of AIR, one AIR alumna answered, “I am still alive.” These words linger with me and motivate me to work even harder!

What gives you hope? I am inspired by young people getting more involved in their communities, speaking out about what they value, and being savvy about social media. Our program theme for this year is “Still We Rise: Cultivating Courage,” which encourages our teens to stand up for what they believe, consider their actions carefully, and honor women who have stood before them.

What should the community know about your work that it may not currently know? At AIR, our girls find their voices. I am always amazed at the transformation of these young women from their first day, when they are nervous and shy, to the final showcase or exhibition.

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