Manager of Community Impact, United Way of Pioneer Valley; Age 36
It’s not every day that a new mother decides, not long after maternity leave, to pursue a complete career change, including pursuit of a master’s degree and starting from scratch at a nonprofit organization, after already securing a successful position in the corporate sector.
But that’s exactly what LaTonia Monroe Naylor did. She followed her heart into the career that had been beckoning her again and again, and today serves literally thousands of people as the manager of Community and Volunteer Engagement with the United Way. It was a tough decision — Naylor and her husband were raising a young family, and taking the job would entail a salary reduction. But she’d already found happiness through other nonprofit endeavors, including as an early champion and organizer of Deborah House Second Chance Transitional Housing, established in 2010 in Springfield.
“Working with a corporation was nice, but I wanted to help people,” she said, noting that she earned her master’s degree at Bay Path University in nonprofit management and philanthropy. For good measure, she also picked up a certification in volunteer board and governance. Soon after, she accepted a position with the United Way.
“I definitely feel like a lot of the things that make us more visible in the community come from the people who have a real passion for this kind of work,” she said.
Naylor has a particular passion for helping young people, both through the United Way’s programs that connect community resources to the families and individuals who most need them, such as Students Engage Springfield — a program that expands and creates new outlets for college students to connect to service-learning opportunities — and other endeavors, including Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno’s Anti-violence Task Force.
“Things like that give me a chance to work on other important issues that aren’t necessarily part of the United Way’s core mission,” she said, “and help to make Springfield a great place to live.”
Today, Naylor’s family has swelled to four children, and it’s this brood, along with her husband of 15 years, who propel her, along with their faith.
“I’m a believer, and I feel that is a big part of being successful for me,” she said, adding that her future plans include pursuing teaching opportunities and perhaps taking on an executive director’s position with a youth center someday.
Her biggest goal, though, will continue to be nurturing her community for everyone who lives within it, from family to friends to strangers passing by.
— Jaclyn Stevenson
Photography by Leah Martin Photography