About Monarch

  • who we are q&a board of directors major contributors school leadership history dollars & sense

    Monarch has served San Diego for over three decades, beginning as a one-room education center and expanding into a K-12 comprehensive school designed to educate homeless youth.

    There are more than 1.2 million homeless students across the country and 23,000 in San Diego County alone. Research shows homelessness contributes to a wide range of challenges including physical and psychological problems, safety fears and academic struggles. The barriers these students face hinder their ability to become contributing, successful members of their families and society and place them at a high risk of becoming tomorrow’s homeless adults.

    At Monarch, we give students the skills and tools they need to overcome these odds.

    Sandra McBrayer founded the school in 1987 recognizing the need to get homeless youth off the streets and in school. She was later named Teacher of the Year by President Bill Clinton for her work. In 1999, the Monarch School Project, a 501 (c)(3), was established by San Diego Rotary to help relocate the school to a new facility. Today, the partnership between the school and the nonprofit continues to make Monarch a recognized leader in the education of homeless youth.

  • q&a

    • Is Monarch a public school?
      Monarch is a public school operated under the San Diego County Office of Education’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools educational program.
    • Whom does Monarch serve?
      Monarch School serves homeless students grades K-12 who live in San Diego County.
    • Who operates the school?
      Monarch is a public-private partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education and the nonprofit Monarch School Project, a 501(c)(3) corporation.
    • How many students does Monarch serve?
      Monarch can serve up to 350 students daily.
    • Where do Monarch students live?
      Our students live in shelters, motels, single room occupancy housing, double- or tripled-up with other families, at camp sites, in cars, or on the streets.
    • How are students referred to Monarch?
      Students are referred to Monarch through shelters and other social service agencies, school districts, and “word of mouth.”
    • How long do students attend Monarch?
      The average student attends Monarch for 11 months. However, many students are enrolled here for years and even attend until graduation.
    • Why Monarch?
      Monarch has developed an innovative approach to learning where students gain the skills they need to improve their lives, develop awareness of their emotions, explore their passions and plan for a life of self-sufficient living.
    • Are there other schools like Monarch?
      Monarch School is the largest and most comprehensive K-12 program of its kind for homeless students in the U.S., and is a model for how a community can successfully educate homeless children to become productive citizens.
    • How do I enroll my student?
      Contact our enrollment office at (619) 652-4102 or enrollment@monarchschools.org.
  • board of directors

    Board Chair
    Rochelle Bold
    Community Volunteer

    Vice Chair and Advancing Strategies Chair
    James Harris
    University of San Diego

    Lisa Bicker
    Community Volunteer

    Governance Chair
    Debra Molyneux
    Community Volunteer

    Finance Chair
    Graeme Reid
    Assurance Partner
    Ernst & Young LLP

    Audit Chair
    Sam Attisha
    Senior Vice President/
    Region Manager
    Cox California

    Resource Development Chair
    Caroline Winn

    Ryan Alfred
    Digital Assets Data

    Chris Connolly
    Senior Vice President, Marketing
    San Diego Padres

    Christian Gagel
    Singular Genomics Systems, Inc.

    Ashley Gosal
    Director of Legal
    Bosa Development

    Jennifer LeSar
    President & Founding CEO
    LeSar Development Consultants

    Todd Mokhtari
    President & General Manager
    NBC 7 and Telemundo 20

    Pamela Gray Payton
    Chief Impact and Partnerships Officer, Vice President of Community Impact
    The San Diego Foundation

    Jill Skrezyna
    Community Volunteer

    Karin Vogel
    Sheppard Mullin

  • monarch extends our thanks to generous supporters who made gifts of $10,000 or more, from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020

    Alliance Healthcare Foundation
    The Barnik Tarbut Foundation
    The Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation
    The Burnham Foundation
    The Carey Family
    Cavignac & Associates
    The Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation
    Cox Communications
    The Danna Foundation
    David C. Copley Foundation
    Debra Carroll and Donald Duford Family Foundation
    Diane & Norm Blumenthal
    The Farrell Family Foundation
    George Lai
    Gilbert J. Martin Foundation
    The Guerin Foundation
    Hewlett-Packard Company
    Helmstetter Family Foundation
    The Hervey Family Fund at The San Diego Foundation
    Issa Family Foundation
    James M. Cox Foundation
    Jan Steinert and Richard Bosse
    Jean Martinez
    Jill Skrezyna and Alex Sun
    Dr. Jim and Mary Harris and the University of San Diego
    Joan and Irwin Jacobs
    John Krakauer Charitable Trust
    Jose Fernandez and Deidre Buddin
    Kiwanis Club of La Jolla
    Latham & Watkins
    Lena Price
    Lily Lai Foundation
    Lipin Family Foundation
    Lisa Bicker Martin and Jeff Martin
    The Matthews Foundation
    MAXIMUS Foundation
    The McGurk Foundation
    Nat and Flora Bosa
    Palomar Specialty Insurance Company
    Price Philanthropies
    Quanta Services
    R.C. Baker Foundation
    ResMed Foundation
    The Rice Family Foundation
    Rochelle and Bill Bold
    The San Diego Foundation
    San Diego Rotary Club Foundation
    Satterberg Foundation
    Schubach Aviation
    Scott and Erin McPherson
    Sempra Energy
    The Shiley Foundation
    St. Germaine Children’s Charity
    The Susan Scott Foundation
    Switchfoot BRO-AM Foundation
    Thomas Ohana Foundation
    Walter J. & Betty C. Zable Foundation


  • Afira DeVries CEO
    Afira DeVries CEO

    Afira DeVries most recently served as the United States Director of Spring Impact, a global nonprofit focused on scaling social impact solutions. Previous to that, she served as President & CEO for the United Way of the Roanoke Valley in Southwestern Virginia and Chief Development and Innovations Officer of United Way of Tampa, Florida. Afira has enjoyed a two-decade career as a health and human services executive, successfully leading innovation and growth for six thriving nonprofit organizations. Having generated more than a quarter billion dollars in support of social innovation over the course of her career, her extensive development, leadership and programmatic design experience will contribute to the vision and strategic direction of the Monarch School Project.

  • Marisol Alvarado Vice President of Programs
    Marisol Alvarado Vice President of Programs

    Marisol Alvarado has worked in education for 20 years in San Diego and New York City. She has a background in School Counseling and Family Engagement, and has worked with families impacted by homelessness at Monarch since 2007. During her time at Monarch she has worked in all levels of programming, including serving as a Parent Liaison, Director of Parent Engagement, Director of Student Support and Senior Director of Student Services. Marisol believes young people do best when they experience strong, positive relationships in all parts of their lives, have a safe place to learn and have a say in their own learning. Marisol helped to build the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Team and programming on campus, using researched based practices such Trauma Informed Care, a Strength Based Framework and Restorative Practices. Additionally, Marisol and the SEL team have designed programming and practices at Monarch using the Developmental Relationships Framework which focuses on expressing care, fostering growth, providing support, sharing power and expanding possibilities to ensure that students and families thrive.

  • Elizabeth Pennington Vice President of Philanthropy
    Elizabeth Pennington Vice President of Philanthropy

    Elizabeth serves as Vice President of Philanthropy, overseeing fundraising, marketing and communications. Her experience spans a broad spectrum of non-profit environments, from education and the environment to healthcare and the arts. Formerly Elizabeth also worked as a primary school teacher and arts education specialist. Her passion for education, the arts and philanthropy guides her work in serving the students and families of Monarch.

  • KishaLynn Elliott Vice President of Operations and Evaluation
    KishaLynn Elliott Vice President of Operations and Evaluation

    KishaLynn Elliott joined the Monarch School in September 2013 as Director of College and Career Development. In this role, she created the first student internship program at Monarch, partnering with workforce development partners and local businesses to provide students with career-readiness instruction and real-world work experience through on-the-job training and mentorship. In 2016, she transitioned to a new leadership role as Director of Program Evaluation, focused on measuring and demonstrating the impact of Monarch’s social-emotional learning (SEL) programming. In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused Monarch to close, KishaLynn developed systems for case managing families to ensure a continuity of support services and distributing resources to families to help meet their basic needs during the school closure. KishaLynn earned a BA in English from Spelman College in 2002. KishaLynn has been working in education nonprofit management since 2004. She is a certified coach, a licensed restorative practices trainer, and holds a Project Management Professional (PMP) credential.

Our History

Hope and dedication isn’t accomplished overnight.

  • 1987

    The outlook is grim for homeless children needing help in San Diego County. Recognizing a desperate situation, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) funds a drop-in center in downtown San Diego. Named The P.L.A.C.E. (Progressive Learning Alternative Center for Education), it is staffed with a single teacher, Sandra McBrayer, and offers an opportunity for homeless children to get off the streets and pursue an education.

  • 1990

    Needing a larger facility but lacking funds, The P.L.A.C.E. relocates to a low-income neighborhood in downtown. Despite challenges, the program continues to flourish.


    Students rename The P.L.A.C.E., and Monarch School is born.

  • 1998

    Students rename the school to Monarch School in honor of the butterfly’s transformation, which symbolizes their current struggle as well as the success they hope to achieve.


    Monarch School Project is formed as a California nonprofit corporation.

  •  2001

    The school moves to a new building on Cedar Street in Little Italy. SDCOE agrees to fund a 15-year lease, and Monarch School Project raises over $1 million to fund renovations, furniture and fixtures in the school. The new 10,000-square-foot facility opens with 48 students and includes a computer lab, three classrooms, a small health clinic, library and conference room, kitchen, laundry room and shower.

  • 2002

    Monarch School reaches its capacity of 150 students in May, four years ahead of growth projections.


    Building modifications are made in order to add a kindergarten and first-grade classroom. Monarch School is now able to serve children impacted by homelessness from grades K through 12.

  • 2013

    Monarch School Nat & Flora Bosa Campus opens. The 51,000-square-foot school on 2.2 acres in Barrio Logan is fully equipped with a gymnasium, single subject classrooms, a library, science lab, tutoring center, and many other features that are essentials to a modern, effective learning environment.

  • dollars & sense

    Monarch School is committed to fiscal responsibility and faithful stewardship of the funds entrusted to us by our generous donors.

    It is our responsibility to ensure donated funds are kept safe and used only to carry out Monarch School’s mission of educating students impacted by homelessness.

    IRS 990

    Audited Financial Statement