Monica Villareal Receives the MSU GenCen Community Engagement Inspiration Award

February 17, 2022

Monica VillarealMonica Villareal received her Master of Social Work degree with a specialization in Organizational and Community Leadership from Michigan State University and has since joined the faculty in the School of Social Work. Recently, Ms. Villareal received the MSU GenCen Community Engagement Inspiration Award for her tireless efforts serving her community of Flint, Michigan.

Monica grew up in the Flint area and returned to serve as a pastor and mission developer.  Assigned to Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Flint, Monica serves residents and children in one of the most economically vulnerable neighborhoods in Flint and provides community services to address food insecurity and other basic needs. The Northside neighborhood where Monica works was one of the hardest hit from the Flint Water Crisis and currently is one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to responding to these pervasive and long-term public health crises, Monica has led neighborhood efforts to enhance safety, improve community-police relations, shutter local drug houses, and create safe green spaces where children can play.  Monica also works as a community organizer for Michigan United, mobilizing the larger Flint community on issues pertaining to voting, advocacy, and civic engagement in order to amplify resident voices in city- and county-level decision making, particularly decisions addressing the long-term health effects associated with the Flint Water Crisis.

Through Monica’s work on the Flint Water Crisis Resource and Recovery Committee, she has been an advocate for the right to clean water across the state of Michigan and internationally speaking on the issues of water rights at the Lutheran World Federation Assembly in Namibia. Monica is also a member of the Greater Flint Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Inequities – a task group charged with disseminating public health information to Flint residents including information about the Flint Registry that will monitor the health and well-being of Flint residents, particularly children, well into the future.

Since 2019, Monica has led the Flint Community Initiative which is an internship program offering MSU students a unique opportunity to learn about the assets of the Flint community through intentional community engagement and contributions to projects proposed and facilitated by Flint organizations. The program is a partnership between the College of Social Science, the School of Social Work, and the Flint community. The 2022 program begins in May and runs through August.