IRIS is inspired by the cultural diversity of the San Diego region. Uniquely positioned as an international border city, San Diego maintains inextricable ties to its southern neighbor Mexico, and has long been a destination for refugees and immigrants worldwide who seek opportunity and a new life. IRIS is the product of a group of San Diego educators and professionals who envision a hub of collaboration and innovation that provides equitable access to high-quality education for underserved students and families, while valuing and building on the languages, cultures, and experiences of a diverse population.


Francois represents our refugee demographic and the unique challenges they face.


Francois’s family fled the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and subsequently, Francois was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania. The family eventually received refugee status and arrived in San Diego. Francois and his siblings spoke no English and had little formal schooling experience.  Thanks to outstanding teachers, an innovative school program, and internships with community partners, Francois graduated from high school in 2019.