I took some tests at the career center and every single one declared clearly and undeniably that education was the field for me. I had experience with young, pre-school age children and wasn’t sold, but I decided to try and find a part time job at a school that would let me get my feet wet. I found a posting for a part time front-desk receptionist at an alternative school in downtown San Diego. When I was called for an interview I did some research. Monarch School was a small school for k-12 (yes that’s right, every grade) students that are living in homeless shelters or transitional housing situations. It was small, but provided every basic need of students including 2 meals a day, free clothing, toiletries, blankets, laundry facilities, showers, and of course any and all educational materials needed. I was blown away, and suddenly really wanted to be a part of this. My interview went well and I got a call back, however they thought I might be a better fit for a Resource Specialist Aid position that was open and offered me the choice. I took the position working with kids and ended up spending the next 3 years working one-on-one and in small groups with special ed students integrated into the general ed program in all grades. Eventually I was able to start subbing also, as needed.
Working at Monarch taught me so many things about the human spirit. There is a huge number of families experiencing some sort of housing insecurity due to more factors than I had ever imagined. The will of people to work hard to overcome these circumstances and grow, when giving the support and opportunity that Monarch provided, was truly inspiring. Kids often entered 3-4+ grade levels behind where they should be, and within 12 months nearly all had leaped at least 2 years. Students were treated as family, and families responded by returning the support. Students at Monarch loved school (at least most of the time), and actually supported each other knowing that every single person in their class was in the same unique situation. It was recognized and reacted to not as some deficit, but just something they needed a little more help with to meet the same high expectations as any school. This experience taught me that the relationships adult staff form with students and families, and the culture they create at school, make all the difference. Monarch’ resources were constantly stretched thin, but everyone was dedicated to sharing the wealth and resources, sharing offices and supplies, often out of their own pocket, and spreading the word to bring donors and eventually national attention. I knew if those kids could overcome that level of adversity, then any student had the ability to achieve, and I want to always be a part of that.