Hearts open to students at Monarch School

COAST CITIES — Juice drinks and rolls were packed into the back of an SUV to be served as part of a hot meal at the Monarch School in San Diego thanks to Britney Roschitsch and her friends. Roschitsch is a volunteer who collects donations, buys food and prepares hot meals for family dinner nights at Monarch School for homeless children.
Monarch School is one of two schools nationwide that receives partial public support for exclusively teaching and mentoring homeless children. Monarch School’s average attendance is about 145 students. The school budget relies on 55 percent donations and 45 percent county funding to run its K-12 programs.
“It is just a wonderful, safe space where kids can get their essential needs met and know people do care,” Roschitsch said.
The family situations for students vary — some families live in homeless shelters and some bounce between temporary addresses with family and friends — but they all are homeless. It is usually a temporary situation, but one that often puts students behind in their academic performance.
Monarch School provides education and mentors students and their parents through the challenges of temporary homelessness. The school is fully accredited and offers after-school tutoring and enrichment classes. Two hot meals are served daily to students and family dinner nights are held twice a week. Shower facilities, psychology services and career counseling are also available to students. The goal of the school is to end the cycle of homelessness.
“All students bring same type of challenges,” Joel Garcia, school vice principal, said. “There’s no mold. We address those things and fulfill the needs we have.”
Homeless students can elect to attend their school of residence, but it often leaves them feeling out of place. “Being the only homeless kid at school can carry a stigma, especially if they didn’t have an opportunity to take a shower or have a meal,” Garcia said. “Here, it is one less thing for them to worry about.”
The difficult economic situation the children at Monarch School face strikes close to home for Schitsch. Her single mom struggled to make ends meet and faced a number of personal challenges while Roschitsch and her sisters grew up. Roschitsch said it was difficult to be the kid in class who brought home the canned food donations.
Roschitsch succeeded despite her childhood challenges and is now giving back. “To do for others is a healing experience,” Roschitsch said.
She has prepared several meals for family dinner night that were served with love and received with gratitude. The children and families show great appreciation for a home-cooked meal. Family dinner nights are also an opportunity for parents and teachers to catch up and discuss students’ progress. “The kids are pleasant and grateful,” Roschitsch. “They say ‘thank you ma’am,’ ‘yes, please.’ They ask if there is anything they can do to help. You really build a connection with them.”
Roschitsch has tapped into the generosity of local markets and friends to supply food and help prepare the meals. For one dinner Seaside Market donated several turkeys. For another meal Roschitsch coordinated 20 friends to bake meatloaves that she heated up and served. “One meatloaf can make a big difference,” Roschitsch said. “Parents thank you so much. They say it’s so nice to have a warm square meal.”
The positive response from those who donate and receive the food has prompted Roschitsch to do even more for the school. “It’s amazing how willing everyone is, people really want to help,” Roschitsch said. “It just makes you feel better. Its an amazing experience.”
There are numerous opportunities to donate and volunteer at the school. Roschitsch plans to collect donated sports equipment and teach an after-school fitness program at Monarch School.
For more information on Monarch School, visit www.monarchschool.org.

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