Josie Monarch

Josie Monarch had two requirements for the college she would eventually attend. One of them was that she had to be part of its football program.

The Hardinsburg, Ky., native had already volunteered nearly 3,000 hours for the small community’s youth football league, actually playing on the team for a year. At the same time, she was a cheerleader for her school’s football team.

“I remember standing there on the sidelines, basically shucking the football jersey off her and handing her her cheerleader uniform so she could go cheer,” her mother, Julie, says. “There’s been many a year when we just followed Josie with whatever gear or equipment she needed, and we just got her dressed on the way.”

The only girl on the team, “I was a fullback and MVP for our championship game,” Monarch adds. For the youth league, she also helped coach, haul water, set up and tear down the field, run concessions and even referee a couple of games. After passing the cutoff age of 12, she begged to play for her public school.

“We told her there was no way,” her mother says. “With her long, blonde ponytail sticking out, that would be the worst target ever, so we refused.”

“[The other players] would grab me by the ponytail and whip me around,” Monarch replies matter-of-factly. “I was kind of used to it by that point.”

Monarch threw her love of the game into managing her high school team, where she was in charge of footballs and kicking equipment. When the boys went into the locker room, she waited in the gym, ensuring everything was in place.

By that time, Monarch was accustomed to being the only girl around, so being outnumbered in computer assisted drafting (CAD) and machine tool technology classes didn’t bother her, either.

While studying at Breckinridge County Area Technology Center, she learned about industrial pollutants at the same time she was taking an advanced placement class in environmental science.

“I think they really played off of one another,” Monarch says. From that point on, she wanted to be an environmental attorney. “I’ve always loved being outdoors and have always wanted to protect it, but that’s what really got me interested in the legislative processes behind it.”

‘An incredible experience’

While it might seem like a stretch — from football to a law career — Monarch was also active in SkillsUSA, serving as a state officer and gold medalist in Prepared Speech. In fact, the other requirement she had for her future college was being allowed to start a SkillsUSA chapter there.

Her academic record, extracurricular activities, volunteerism and other achievements, such as being selected for the Kentucky Governor’s Scholar program, drew the attention of several universities.

“We were really trying hard to figure out what would be a good fit for her, and she started looking at trying to go to Yale,” her mother says. The family visited the Ivy League university in Connecticut but ultimately chose to stay in state.

“It’s an incredible school,” Monarch says of Yale, “but there was not going to be an opportunity for me to do SkillsUSA and still be involved with my state program, which is where I really feel comfortable.”

The student was recruited by Murray State University (MSU), where she now has a full scholarship. When told of her two stipulations, continuing to be part of SkillsUSA and a football program, the dean of students “made a call right then and got it taken care of,” her mother adds.

Starting as a manager for MSU football, Monarch went with the team to a game at Florida State University — “an incredible experience!” she says. Unfortunately, due to some health issues since resolved, she had to step down before the season ended. “I still see a lot of the players around campus. We grab lunch when we can and try to catch up with one another.”

Now pursuing her other love, the freshman continues in SkillsUSA as a college/postsecondary state officer. She and her chapter advisor are working to build interest on campus. Some previous state officers are already members.

“I am really excited to see how things go,” she says. “SkillsUSA has always been a huge part of my life and will continue to for the next four years. Nothing could make me happier!”