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Monarch Graduates Overcome Tough Odds

Aired 6/15/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego's Monarch School for students who've been homeless congratulates nine high-school graduates.

— Students who experience homelessness not only have lower academic achievement than their peers, they are also far less likely to graduate.

On Friday nine students at San Diego's Monarch School for students experiencing homelessness beat those odds and graduated from high school. All nine are enrolled in college classes for the fall.

"I've worked with every single one of them," said Chuy Nuñez. He rotates between classrooms as a substitute at the school, which operates 51 weeks a year. "Just seeing what they accomplished, seeing what was overcome. It makes every day worthwhile."

The last school Jose Delgadillo went to before enrolling at Monarch in September 2009 was the school at the county's Rancho Del Campo juvenile facility. Now he's got a diploma.

After his mother couldn't find the money to pay the rent, Delgadillo ended up at the St. Vincent DePaul shelter with her and his brothers.

"I wasn't expecting to finish high school," he said. "When I was in ninth grade, I was kind of expecting to drop school. But they explained to me why you need to come to school. You have to come to school for knowledge, to be smart, to make the United States even better."

Delgadillo will start taking classes at San Diego City College later this month. He wants to transfer to a university and get a degree in kinesiology.

Brittany Jackson started at Monarch in January 2010, after going to high schools at opposite ends of the county -- in Chula Vista and Fallbrook. She said she also went to several different middle and elementary schools.

"At Monarch School, you can live where ever - you can live 56 miles away, like me and my family were," she said. "You felt welcomed, everybody was in your situation. It felt better than a regular high school where everybody else was ... I guess you could say, different."

Both of Jackson's siblings have also gone to Monarch, one is still a student at the school.

"I worried less because I knew my kids felt more emotionally stable because they were around other kids who were going through the same thing," said Naomi Lopez, Jackson's mother. "They offer them scholarships, they help them with monthly bus passes so they can get to and from school, they take them shopping for clothes once a month."

Jackson is heading to the University of California, Santa Cruz in the fall. She plans to become a pharmacist.

Delgadillo, Jackson and the seven other graduates are all eligible to receive financial support from the school while enrolled in college courses full or part-time and maintaing GPAs of 2.5 or higher.

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