How can homeless children be expected to excel in the classroom when they are faced with unimaginable obstacles on a daily basis?
Such is the realization a school in San Diego had, which now aims to help students by providing them stability and a number of special resources.
The Monarch School is one of a few academic institutes in the United States that caters specifically to kids who are homeless. The school gives its students access to showers, laundry facilities, meals, after school programs, and, of course, a full roster of academic classes.
“How can children focus on school if their tummies are growling, their shoes don’t fit, and they don’t even know where they are going to be sleeping the next day?” Michelle Candland, a Rotary club member, told The Rotarian.
The Monarch School opened in 1987 under the combined auspices of the San Diego County Office of Education and the juvenile court system. But back then, children were required to make their way through crowds of panhandlers and drug dealers to get inside the door of the two-room store front.
Thanks to the efforts of Cortland and the local Rotary club, the Monarch school eventually relocated into a 10,000 square foot warehouse. Classrooms were crowded, however, so the Rotary club support a 15-million-dollar fundraising effort, purchased the old San Diego Housing Commission building and set about upgrading the 51-thousand square foot facility.
And, as the environment improved, eventually so did students’ attendance. Reported scores on the California Academic Performance Index have been slowly improving, and grades are also creeping up. Teachers note that students who once were earning Ds and Fs are now getting Bs and Cs.
The progressive school even prepares its older students for success after graduation. Elder students receive job-skills training and intern at local hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. An afterschool project called Butterfly Enterprises provides education in entrepreneurial activities, such as setting up a business to make and sell jewelry, with various students assigned to production, sales, accounting, and marketing.
The Monarch School has been described as “public service at its best” by outside agencies. The name “Monarch” was chosen by the students, referencing the action of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.
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