About Monarch

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

    Monarch School has served as a place of hope and belonging to thousands of unhoused students since 1987. Our unique and innovative Kindergarten through 12th grade school provides students with the stability and security they need to heal and learn.

    Nearly 300 students attend Monarch School each day and are provided a holistic education designed to meet their academic, social, emotional, and life skill needs. Monarch School is a trauma-informed and strength-based community where students can persevere through the trauma of homelessness that has affected them and their success in education.

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

    From increased attendance and academic performance to emotional wellness and earning a high school diploma, students are defining success on their own terms and thriving at Monarch. The school is a public-private partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education and the nonprofit Monarch School Project, a 501(c)(3) corporation.

  • 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 unhoused students and their families 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.
    • Who does Monarch serve?
      Nearly 300 students attend Monarch School each day. In addition, we serve approximately 167 families and 91 alumni throughout the school year.
    • 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 only comprehensive K-12 school in the U.S. developed specifically to serve unhoused students and their families. Our school is a unique model both locally and nationwide that combines a public-school setting with robust social care.
    • How do I enroll my student?
      Contact our enrollment office at (619) 652-4102 or enrollment@monarchschools.org.
  • board of directors

    Board Chair
    James Harris
    University of San Diego

    Vice Chair
    Lisa Bicker
    Community Volunteer

    Karin Vogel
    Sheppard Mullin

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

    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
    Jill Skrezyna
    Community Volunteer

    Ryan Alfred
    Digital Assets Data

    Anjuli Aroura-Dow

    Chris Connolly
    Senior Vice President, Marketing
    San Diego Padres

    Ashley Gosal
    Director of Legal
    Bosa Development

    Makeba Jones
    Assoc. Teaching Professor
    UC San Diego

    Marciano Perez
    Vice President, Student Services
    San Diego City College

    Todd Mokhtari
    President & General Manager
    NBC 7 and Telemundo 20

    Steve Richter, Esq.

    Sharon Vidal
    Sr. Director, Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability

    Caroline Winn
    San Diego Gas & Electric

  • monarch extends our thanks to generous supporters who made gifts of $10,000 or more, from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021

    Ajit Viswanathan and Kayla Baker
    Alliance Healthcare Foundation
    The Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation
    BOSA Development
    Bryant and Esther Burke
    Casey and Mac Armstrong
    The Conrad Prebys Foundation
    Cox Communications
    The Cydio Group
    David C. Copley Foundation
    Day for Change
    Deidre Buddin and Jose Fernandez
    Don and Maryann Lyle
    Ernst & Young
    Farrell Family Foundation
    George Lai
    Gilbert J. Martin Foundation
    The Guerin Foundation
    Guthrie Charitable Foundation
    Helmstetter Family Foundation
    The Hervey Family Fund at The San Diego Foundation
    James and Inna Kelly
    Joan and Irwin Jacobs
    Issa Family Foundation
    Jan Steinert and Richard Bosse
    Jean Martinez
    Jewish Community Foundation
    Jill Skrezyna and Alex Sun
    Dr. Jim and Mary Harris and the University of San Diego
    John Krakauer Charitable Trust
    Judith Campbell Foundation
    Lily Lai Foundation
    Lisa Bicker Martin and Jeff Martin
    Los Angeles Chargers
    MAXIMUS Foundation
    Mimie Anderson
    Melissa and Ryan Alfred
    Molly’s Angels Foundation
    Padres Foundation
    Palomar Specialty Insurance Company
    Port of San Diego
    Price Philanthropies Foundation
    Quanta Services Inc.
    R.C. Baker Foundation
    Reena and Raj Agrawal
    ResMed Foundation
    Rochelle and Bill Bold
    Satterberg Foundation
    Saunak and Dawn Shah
    Scott and Erin McPherson
    Sempra Energy
    Senate President pro Tempore Toni. G Atkins
    Southwest Airlines Co.
    St. Germaine Children’s Charity
    The Gilbert Foundation
    The McGurk Foundation
    The Parker Foundation
    The Rice Family Foundation
    The San Diego Foundation
    The San Diego Women’s Foundation
    UBS Financial Services
    VSP Vision Care
    Thomas Ohana Foundation
    Walter J. and 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.

  • Dyane Plumly Principal
    Dyane Plumly Principal

    Dyane Plumly has worked for the San Diego County Office of Education for over 10 years. She has served as a classroom teacher, Instructional Coach, and Site Administrator. Dyane believes that students thrive when held to high expectations and engaging, relevant content. Dyane's work focuses on building literacy and reading intervention programs. She earned a Bachelors of Arts from the University of Washington, a Masters in Teaching at University of Washington, and Masters in Teaching and Learning in Technology at Ashford. She is trained in Restorative Practices and Trauma Informed Care to build Multi-Tiered Systems of Support to ensure students have exactly what they need, when they need it.

  • 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 youth experiencing homelessness 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 youth experiencing homlessness 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 youth experiencing 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 unhoused youth.

    IRS 990

    Audited Financial Statement