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.
Vice Chair and Advancing Strategies Chair
University of San Diego
Ernst & Young LLP
Senior Vice President/
Resource Development Chair
Digital Assets Data
Senior Vice President, Marketing
San Diego Padres
Singular Genomics Systems, Inc.
Director of Legal
President & Founding CEO
LeSar Development Consultants
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
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.