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When School Choice Hit Home

My little cousin is smart. Well, she’s not so little, but she is certainly smart. As a ninth grader, she currently stands a few inches taller than 5’6” me. And that was probably over a year ago when I last saw her after deciding to relocate from what had for years been a 5 to 10-minute drive to see her to now a 2-hour plane ride. So instead of our food outings and family get togethers, we were now forced to catch up over the phone and through text.
Our most recent monthly phone call was filled with the usual: friendship issues, boys, college dreams… all the things kids her age talk about. I listened as intently as I could, knowing that her “teenage drama” would, in time, be memories that she probably wouldn’t even be able to recall. As the update on what she believed were the most interesting and important parts of her life were coming to a close, she decided that it was time to finally divulge one tidbit of information: “My father said that he is going to send me to Bishop Moore.”
My ears perked up. My eyes lit up. I was careful to listen and quell my excitement as she went into more detail. I didn’t want my enthusiasm to overshadow the disappointment that I could both feel and hear through the phone. She is currently at a public high school, a place that she had dreamed about going for years. If I had to count the number of conversations we had about that place… Let’s just say, she made it clear that she would be a student at no place other than there.
Her high school is not bad. The success stories from past students are numerous. The campus is brand new, probably less than 10-years old. But for her, for my smart, little cousin, I knew that there were better options. And unlike her, I also knew what a heavy hitter Bishop Moore was.
As a student athlete at one of the local private schools, I had a love/hate relationship with the school. I hated how they beat up on my volleyball and basketball teams year after year, but I was also well aware of its academic prowess. There was no doubt that they were sending their students to the best colleges around the country. My cousin’s goal for college: Berkeley.
I was confident that if my cousin decided to stay where she was and complete high school at the place she had dreamed about and spoke of ad nauseam, she would be perfectly fine. But, I have a thing for stacking the deck for success. I knew that, if not Bishop Moore, there were other schools in my old city that could provide not only the education, but the social opportunities that would make her brain candy for any top-notch college or university.
Having a full week and two days under my belt as an employee at the American Federation for Children, I was fully aware of her options. We are Florida girls. So, as I heard myself say, “There’s nothing wrong with your school, but I believe that there are better options for you, and Bishop Moore just may be one,” I knew that I wasn’t selling her pipe dreams. With the tuition $14,000 and some change, my (old) state had made it possible for me to tell my cousin that she had options, despite these kinds of roadblocks. It was a conversation that I had been itching to have with her the moment that I learned about Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship. This income-based scholarship was giving a hundred thousand kids around the state of Florida the opportunity to get an education that would help them achieve the future that they dreamed for themselves.
The jury is still out on whether my cousin will follow the guidance of her older, wiser cousin but if she does decide to seek outside of her dream high school, I’m thankful that there are options for a smart, strong, confident girl like her.


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