An avid filmmaker, a family man and a musician, School Resource Officer Mark Monaco has many ‘secret’ talents.
In high school, Monaco participated in the trifecta: sports, music and drama. In return for his avid involvement in extracurricular activities, he received multiple full-ride scholarships and a multitude of financial aid.
Although Monaco moved around as a child, he was born in Superior, Mont. and eventually found his way back to Plains, Mont. for high school where he graduated in 1982.
“I got heavily involved in sports and music and drama all through my high school career. I received top honors at state for vocal performance,” Monaco said.
Not only was he a stellar student both inside and outside the classroom, but he also had a job at a local grocery store as a box boy.
“During high school I bought and sold three different cars, had money in my pocket. But I also wasn’t able to go and have all the fun that people usually have during the summer,” Monaco said.
But as the end of high school came, the reality of the future set in. With full-ride scholarships and tuition waivers being offered to him left and right, the stress overwhelmed Monaco.
“I didn’t have a mentor, so I went where my best friend was going and we both went to the University of Montana,” he said.
However, this was one of the schools that had only offered him financial aid rather than a full ride. But being with someone he knew and trusted was more important to him than scholarships. This decision ultimately led him to the life he lives now, and Monaco said he has no regret in attending the UM over other schools.
Monaco walked onto the football team, and realized how political it was and decided against participating in the sport.
“School and a job were more important than politics. If I had a mentor, I probably would have stayed on because I don’t like quitting,” he said.
After making a few bad decisions, his education for the first year of college came to an end. The summer between his freshman and sophomore years, he regained focus on school. He detailed cars at the DeMarois dealership in Missoula.
“I went back to school and changed my attitude a little bit,” Monaco said.
He decided to focus his energy onto other things. He got involved with cheerleading and the Sigma Nu Fraternity. He was presented with many opportunities within these organizations.
“I had received an invitation [from the varsity cheer squad] to go to Japan in 1985, so I became a cheerleader,” he said.
After his experience as a cheerleader, the summer between his junior and senior year, Monaco made the choice to join the military. He was sent to San Diego for boot camp.
“While I was at boot camp, they were filming Top Gun with Tom Cruise. So that was cool to walk right by him,” Monaco said.
Monaco’s job in the military was to fly a P-3 Orion plane twice a month dropping sonobuoys into the ocean. Sonobuoys are devices that listen to electronic signatures of submarines.
“After boot camp, I came back to Missoula and realized that I needed a complete change,” Monaco said. “I took the big venture and went to Billings, not knowing anybody, and went to school at Eastern for a year and a half to get my head turned on right.”
He then came back to Missoula in 1989 and worked for Montana Rail Link that summer. This is when Monaco started testing for the Missoula Police Department.
“I got hired for the police department in 1992 and during that time up until now, I was a part of the street crimes unit for a year and a half and a street motorcycle operator for 12 years,” he said.
Monaco got married 10 years ago at age 40 to his wife Joie. They enjoyed skiing and other outdoor activities until a car accident impaired Monaco’s ability to do so.