INDIANAPOLIS – For students on the west side of the city, there’s a new school option this year.

What makes this option different is that it’s inspired by the Latino and immigrant experience. School leaders hope it breaks down barriers.

A group of 6th graders inside Felicia Sears’ classroom are the first students who make up the Monarca Academy. For Sears, this school puts kids in a position to share who they are and their culture with others.

“Having the diversity is definitely one of our biggest assets I would say and getting to position students where they are all teaching us,” Sears explained. “Myself as a Latina with very light skin, I did not grow up speaking Spanish or learning Spanish. [It was] spoken around me, but not to me a lot. So there are many times where I am in this reclamation of my own identity, and the kids are helping me a lot with that.”

Along with the required subjects like social studies and math, the innovation charter school finds time for special courses that include different cultures, like dance.

It’s a school model that Executive Director Francisco Valdiosera believes in. He’s previously managed 30 English as a second language (ESL) programs for Indianapolis Public Schools. With the rising number of Latino students in the city, he says it’s important there’s a school where kids feel understood and where staff can support their families.

“This is the northwest side, near the Lafayette Square Mall, it’s the international marketplace. There are a lot of different ethnicities represented here, hundreds of languages. So I think it really is unique and a place where this school really belongs,” said Valdiosera.

Monarca stands for monarch, like the butterfly. A symbol of strength and growth that school leaders say this community needs.

“We do that with our three founding values of ganas, which means perseverance. Orgullo, which means pride, and comunidad which means community,” Sears added.

There are 40 kids enrolled and there is still limited space available. Monarca Academy is located inside Northwest Middle School. It’s an approved partnership with IPS and the Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation.

As the academy adds more students and grade levels the hope is to move into its own space.