Ranch & Coast Magazine

December 2023

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Page 56 of 147

"is is a place where they can set that baggage down and they can feel like part of a community because every student here is experiencing the same condition they're experiencing," says Afira DeVries, president and CEO of Monarch School. "at releases them from the stigma, and it releases them from the feeling that they need to hide and that they need to be less than participatory in their school environment, which is what happens in a traditional school." Instead, kids attending Monarch School get to be regular kids engaged in academics and sports, and a separate, dedicated campus called e Chrysalis, located just blocks away, features spaces for music, dance, and performance and visual arts. In addition to providing the traditional elements of a school, Monarch also supports kids' social and emotional growth, as well as life skills to build a foundation for success and break the cycle of homelessness. "e very last thing they'd want is to be imagined as poor, downtrodden, joyless little human beings because what they are, are just kids," says DeVries. "ey have moments of joy and happiness, and they have moments of sadness and overwhelm. ey have friends and they have adversaries, they pick on each other and they love each other. ey're kids, like any other kid." DeVries says it's a common misconception that the school is state-funded, but the reality is that it is a nonprofit organization. However, it is fortunate to have significant relationships within the community — including businesses, foundations, and corporations including Accenture, UBS, SDG&E, and the San Diego Padres — which provide essential funding for its programs and services that far exceed the role of a "regular" school. When asked why Monarch speaks to people on such a deep level, DeVries says, "I really think it comes down to one specific thing, and it's that everyone was a kid once. It's that feeling of universal relatability, but also realizing how unfair it is that our kids struggle the way that they do, because it's through no fault of their own. And if you have resources, and you are connecting with that feeling that our kids feel, you're going to want to do something about it." It's an inspiring and daunting undertaking, and Monarch School's entire staff, down to its janitors, are trauma informed for a reason, as these kids bear a heavy emotional burden. "But you know what? ey're full of joy and hope," says DeVries. "And for me, personally, I think that's inspiring. Because if a kid who is unhoused can still find joy, everybody can figure out how to find joy." monarchschools.org Significant relationships within the community including with the San Diego Padres provide essential funding for Monarch School's programs and services that far exceed the role of a "regular" school @ranchandcoast RANCH & COAST MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2023 57 PHOTO COURTESY OF SAN DIEGO PADRES

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