What it's Like to go From Homelessness to College Applications

March 27th 2015

Laura Donovan

ATTN: recently visited the Monarch School, a San Diego public school dedicated to homeless youth. Monarch serves 350 students between kindergarten and 12th grade. The average student attends the school for six months, but some students stay at Monarch for years and even graduate.

See How This School Is Breaking the Cycle for Homeless Youth

See How This School Is Breaking the Cycle for Homeless Youth

Posted by ATTN: on Thursday, March 26, 2015

One exemplary student is senior Shay Shay. At 16, Shay Shay had nowhere to go after leaving behind an abusive home situation. The police took her off the streets and referred her to a teen shelter, and shortly thereafter, she started attending Monarch, which she says completely changed her life.

With three months left until graduation, Shay Shay credits the Monarch School with helping her get on her feet and inspiring her to apply to college, among many other things. Here's what she had to say to ATTN: about her time at the Monarch School.

How did you first hear about the Monarch School?

At the time, I was homeless. The cops took me to a [youth services] shelter called Storefront. From there, they enrolled me in Monarch. I'd never heard of Monarch before, so when I got there, I didn't know anyone really. I was kind of oblivious to what was going on here. I didn't know that this was a school for homeless youth.

What was it like when you first went to the Monarch School? Did you like it or did it take a little bit longer to adjust?

It took a little longer to adjust because I was going through a lot of stuff then and didn't really want to talk to anybody. I was kind of a loner, but eventually I warmed up to people.

What's been your favorite experience so far at the Monarch School?

Christmas. We have an activities coordinator named Ms. Katie and she sets up a lot of the activities for Monarch kids. Every Christmas, I forget what the group is called, but they spend their own money and buy us gifts. We make a list of what we want for Christmas, and we get almost everything we want, so that's really cool.

What are your classmates like?

They're funny! And crazy too.

Do you have a close group of friends or are you friends with a lot of different people?

I have a close group of friends.

Have you always been in the San Diego area?

No, I lived in Georgia for part of my life, but that was a long time ago. I was born and raised down in San Diego.

How does the Monarch School compare to other schools you've attended?

On a scale of one to ten with ten being the best, it'd be 20 because Monarch is the best school ever. There's no other school that can compete with this. No other school. Not San Diego High, not Sweetwater, not any other high school.

Awesome. And so what's a typical day like for you at school?

Come to school, go to class. In class, we do a lot of reading, writing, talking, and discussions. I get my work done.

And what classes do you enjoy most?

Right now, I'm taking chemistry and history, and I really enjoy chemistry right now.

I heard you were part of an internship program. What kind of work have you been doing and what has that experience been like?

The internship program with my school is called Monarch Internship Program, so MIT, and we have matching shirts. Every Tuesday, we have internship class from 3 to 5:15, and we custom make our own t-shirts, basically Monarch shirts, and we're selling them to whoever wants to buy them.

Every Thursday, I work at the BPOC, which is the Balboa Park Online Collaborative. I work there every Thursday from 2-5. It's basic work, but it's really cool though because I get to work with 3D photos, go to museums, and help them. It's really cool.

Are you finishing high school this year?

Yes, I graduate June 26.

And do you know what you want to do after high school?

I want to be a lawyer. I'm going to SDSU (San Diego State University) hopefully.

What would you like people to know about the Monarch School?

I would like people to know that whatever you're going through, whatever obstacles you may face, just know that there are people who care about you. I was in the same position. I was going through stuff. When I came to Monarch, I didn't know anybody, I didn't like anybody. I slowly started to notice that people did care about me. This school isn't like any of the schools I've ever been to. This is the most amazing school I've been to in my whole life. They provide things for me that my other schools didn't, they provide support, everything you need, they provide for us. Not only that, but there's a lot of support and motivation that gets to the students that makes them want to keep coming here. I'm proud of students who are going through stuff and still manage to go to school every day. They're champions. They don't give up.