To Top

Meet Nicole Assisi of Thrive Public School

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Assisi.

Nicole, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started out as a teacher in San Diego – for the San Diego Unified School District and then for High Tech High. From there, I helped found two of California’s most acclaimed charter operators: Camino Nuevo and the Da Vinci Schools in Los Angeles. But I knew I wanted to return to San Diego, where I had started my career and been a student myself.

With the support of the Charter Schools Growth Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I was able to open Thrive Public School in 2014. We designed Thrive to be a 21st-century school that uses the latest technology and research to support students in becoming community-minded, career-inspired and college-prepared.

Today, we have three locations serving 700 students in grades TK through high school. In the next couple years, we hope to serve another 500 kids and take our work preparing students for college and career even deeper.

Over the past five years we have worked to reimagine public school and make sure students in San Diego are ready for the dynamic futures that await them. Our schools prioritize project-based and experiential learning, supporting teachers to work with local organizations and professionals so that every student is connected to the community and exposed to the many industries and opportunities in San Diego.

Our model has proved to be a success, with students scoring in the top 1% nationwide for reading growth, and a wait list of three students for every seat in the school. It’s important to me to spread the word about what’s working well at our school and influence the larger conversation about public education. I taught credentialing candidates at UCLA, Cal State Dominguez Hills and USD, and we just started an in-house program at Thrive to support future teachers in getting their credentials and classroom experience. I collaborated on the Next Gen Learning Symposium, a completely free day of professional development with sessions on Blended and Project Based Learning, attended by district, state and charter educators. We host visitors from around the world and our staff members write about our work for publications like EdWeek and Getting Smart. I love where I am today, working closely with students, families, and educators to transform how we think about school and also being able to influence the national conversation about education.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being an entrepreneur means taking risks and having confidence in your own vision, even before other people can see it and believe in it alongside you. We started our school in 2014 with only 45 students, and this fall we will have about 1,000 students across multiple campuses in San Diego.

I am so proud of the hard work and innovation of our team to realize our vision for a transformational school in just a few short years, and so excited for the continued work and creativity ahead of us. We have built partnerships with incredible organizations like the Bayside Community Center, Civic San Diego, and the Girard Foundation, and with their support, we open a brand new school in Linda Vista in the fall.

We also have an exceptional team of teachers. It takes work to build the right staff. We recruit nationally and pride ourselves on our in-depth and meaningful professional development. We really work to draw in diverse applicants so that all of our diverse student body can see themselves in their teachers. As a result of this work, we have teachers today who are among the most talented in their craft.

Please tell us about Thrive Public School.
Thrive is a non-profit charter public school, on a mission to reimagine public education in San Diego’s most distressed neighborhoods. Thrive seeks to serve a student body that is representative of San Diego’s diversity. Our school community encompasses children living in poverty as well as those from more affluent backgrounds, with students enrolled in transitional kindergarten through high school joining us from 45 different zip codes. We are proud to serve a student body that reflects our city and comes together to foster a sense of belonging every day.

We support our diverse community with a focus on strong academic and interpersonal growth for every student. At Thrive, we meet students where they are, track individual learning needs and growth, support character development, and cultivate students’ passions through project-based learning. Our rich curriculum is supported by practices that grow the inter- and intra-personal skills needed in college and beyond. Through this unique model, Thrive students graduate college-prepared, career-inspired, and community-minded.

Our academic model has been recognized nationally for its combination of cutting-edge technology and high-quality instructional practices. For three years in a row, Thrive was listed as a “Top School” by Getting Smart, and we have been profiled by many media outlets for our success with student engagement and received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Girard Foundation, and the OtterCares Foundation as well as from the Charter School Growth Fund, Summit Basecamp, and the New Schools Venture Fund. Recently, we received a State Senate Resolution honoring and acknowledging Thrive’s work in San Diego education.

I am most proud, though, of our incredible community. Our teachers come from all over and are the best in their field. Our students and families share their unique experiences, talents, and backgrounds with each other. In one grade, students may create stuffed animals for the children of war veterans while studying the science of touch, while in another grade, students work with professional engineers to design drones that solve world challenges. Our community works with passion and persistence to get our students college-prepared and career-inspired.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
One of my favorite memories as a child is of moving to San Diego, watching the America’s Cup in the San Diego Bay, and starting school here. School has been a passion for me since I was a child and my own experience as a student inspired me to become a teacher.


  • Thrive is a free public school. All of our programs and opportunities are completely free for the San Diego families who enroll at Thrive.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in