INDIANAPOLIS — 13News first told you about Monarca Academy about a year ago when the school was in its final planning stages. The vision has become a reality, with the first class of students embracing their Latino identity through their learning.
On Wednesday morning, students at Monarca Academy practiced capoeira, a Brazilian martial art rooted in Africa. Latino visual and performing arts are part of the curriculum at the innovation school that just opened Aug. 1 as a charter school within Indianapolis Public Schools.
"We center our learning around our students' identity, and that identity could be whatever they bring to the table, whatever they bring to the school,” said Francisco Valdiosera, the founder and executive director of Monarca Academy. “We are inspired by the Latino and immigrant experience. However, we welcome students of all backgrounds."
More than 90% of the students enrolled are of Latino heritage. Some students are immigrants themselves. The core values of the college and career prep school are perseverance, pride, and community.
This fall, Monarca Academy opened and currently has 42 sixth-grade students. Classrooms are in one hallway of Northwest Middle School, at 34th Street and Moeller Road. The plan is for Monarca Academy to grow up with this first group of students, eventually becoming a sixth through 12th grade academy. The sixth graders today will become the first graduating class in 2029.
Valdiosera said seventh grade will be added next year, with hopes for about 125 students in two grades. Monarca Academy is still accepting enrollments for this year or next.
Founding principal Felicia Sears also teaches English and language arts during this start-up phase.
"We're trying to provide as many opportunities for them where learning can be both a window and a mirror, so they can see themselves represented in their learning and parts of their identity,” said Sears, “but then, in addition, a window into other ways of being and other ways of thinking so they get to learn about other people and value their lived experiences and identities as well."
PHOTOS: Monarca Academy opens
"We get to experience each other's cultures,” said sixth grader Alexa Cassie Constante, who immigrated from Haiti when she was just a baby. “At my old school, I used to like going to school just to see my friends and the teachers. But now I actually like coming to school to learn.”
"It’s different, because in math the teacher doesn't grade us by if you got it correct or not,” said sixth grader Jacob Perez. “He grades us if you know it or not."
“My parents wanted me to come here because it's only sixth graders and they wanted to try out something new,” said sixth grader Arlene Lucio.
Something new for students can be something old, like Mexican folk dancing, another class at the school. Students will be performing this Saturday as Monarca Academy celebrates its formal grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, music, and food. The celebration is from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the school, 5525 W. 34th St.