ICS was founded in 2006 as a K-8 program to serve some of San Diego’s most vulnerable citizens. Over 95% of ICS’s student population qualifies for free/reduced price meal and 83% are EL students from City Heights area in San Diego. There is an ongoing influx of refugees coming into City Heights every year from refugee camps in Africa, Asia and East Europe with no prior formal education. According to Hope in the City (2010), City Heights is a low-income community in San Diego with a high density of refugees and immigrants. The following include basic facts about City Heights:
- There are over 78,000 people living within 40 square miles (seven times the California average).
- There are over 34 different dialects/ethnic groups.
- The residents migrated from 60 different countries.
- Tens of thousands of refugees are from Africa and South East Asia.
- About 60% of adult residents did not graduate from high school.
- Almost 70% of the community has been identified as the working poor from Latin America.
- About 30% of the population lives below the poverty line.
- A median family income averages less than $19,000 a year.
- About 44% of the population is foreign born.
- Over 40% of the population is living below the federal poverty line.
- San Diego Unified is the second largest school district in California with over $7 billion in neededrepairs.
- There is a high rate of unemployment, poverty and crime in City Heights.
A concerned group of parents, mostly refugees from a war-torn Somalia, met to create ICS. They chose the word “iftin”, which means enlightenment in Somali, to call attention to a new beginning of hope and support for their children. ICS continues to engender hope and enlightenment for its students and parents after eight years of operation. ICS takes pride in welcoming and meeting the educational needs of students from all of San Diego County, especially those students who have fallen behind in other schools.
ICS, its Board of Directors, Administration Team, and Educational Consultants and Partnerships bring a wide array of expertise that has founded, shaped and sustained the Iftin Charter School program. These individuals understand the mission of the school and are fully committed to it. Under the direction of the Board and current Administration Team, the school gained a net rose for the last four years in API of 115, and met Federal AYP benchmarks. In addition, ICS had carryover fund balances in excess of $1.8 million and a building capacity to create a culture of high expectations and personalization for students from immigrant and refugee backgrounds. ICS became the epicenter for hope and transformation, particularly in the Somali community of San Diego. Iftin believes there is clear evidence that collectively, the governing board, key staff, and consultants possess the necessary background critical to charter school’s success in serving the target population.