INDIANAPOLIS — A new school in the heart of the large immigrant community on the northwest side of Indianapolis welcomes its first students to class next year.
Monarca Academy opens in the fall of 2022 with hopes for 200 middle school students for starters. The plan is to expand the school by one grade each year until Monarca Academy serves students in grades 6-12.
The tuition-free, college preparatory school is inspired by the Latino immigrant experience of its founder, Francisco Valdiosera. But the school will focus on cultural competency for students of all backgrounds.
"We have perseverance (ganas) as our founding goal,” said Valdiosera, “which means high academic expectations; culturally responsive practices, which we call 'orgullo,' which means we don't expect kids to leave any part of themselves at the door when they come into the school, and we'll leverage their past experiences to help in academic achievement; and 'comunidad,' which means community. As community, we can achieve anything we put our mind to.”
The school name is inspired by monarch butterflies, which migrate 2,000 miles from the mountains of Mexico to Indiana and back over four generations.
"That amazing genetic memory, that perseverance, and the beauty of the monarch butterfly has become a symbol of the migrant communities here in the United States,” said Valdiosera. “For that reason, we have chosen the monarch butterfly to be our symbol."
Ana Hernandez has three children, two boys and a girl, currently in fourth, fifth and sixth grade in Indianapolis Public Schools. Hernandez plans to send all three to Monarca Academy next year. She also leads a Mexican folk dance group, Grupo Folclórico Macehuani¸ which will be part of the arts program at the new school.
Hernandez and her children were born in the United States. But her parents immigrated from Mexico.
"My children do recognize who they are, and they do feel proud of who they are, and it's completely different from when I was a student in Indianapolis,” said Hernandez. “But I want that to stay with them, especially during the formative years of middle school and high school, recognizing that their culture gives them strength. It's going to help them throughout their whole life, and it's not something that they have to leave behind in order to assimilate to any educational institution."
Monarca Academy has not yet selected a physical location, but it will be in the Lafayette Square/International Marketplace area, where there is a large immigrant population and hundreds of businesses owned by immigrants. Valdiosera also sees many vacant buildings in the area that could house the school.
Monarca Academy has financial backing and support from The Mind Trust, which works to improve public education for students regardless of their address or background.