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PROGRAM — Florida Tax Credit Scholarship

Many of my friends and family may not know about the huge impact that School Choice had in my life. Today, I would like to share with you how it led me on the road to success. When I was in my first high school, Gause Academy, I was going through serious issues. Like every other teen, I was worried about how I looked and what other people thought, but I was also worrying about whether or not the electricity would be on at home and whether or not my birth-mother would be coming back into my life only to leave again. I was worried about my Grandma (mom) who was sacrificing all she could to provide for me and my siblings after selflessly adopting all three of us in her retirement years.

So much was going on that school really wasn’t my first priority. My grades kept falling and my attitude towards everything got so much worse. I was rude and selfish, I cursed at teachers, and skipped class frequently. I felt like everything in this world was out to get me, but I still had somebody in this school who cared about me: Jennifer Perez, who was not only my 9th and 10th grade English teacher, but also my mentor. She kept me together when everything felt like it was falling apart and helped me get back on the right path. However, in my 10th grade year, she told me that she and my favorite former principal, Mark Thomas, would be leaving to teach at another school.

I thought that they were leaving me, and I didn’t know what to do. It was then that Mrs. Perez asked if I wanted to go with them. She told me that they were going to Victory Christian Academy. I automatically said no; I was afraid that since it was a Christian school and I was not a believer, it would not be a right fit. Plus, I thought that it was going to be full of snobby rich kids who could never understand a person like me. Mrs. Perez insisted that I give the school a try and set up an interview at the school for me. I got in immediately, but then came the question of how I was going to pay. Victory is a private school, and my family barely had enough money for the bills, much less a private school.

However, the school offered me a low-income scholarship to attend there called Step up for Students. The scholarship allowed me to attend a school for which I would not otherwise have the money. When I was at Gause, I can say that the teachers cared and really wanted to help the students there. However, the resources and the time outside of class that I needed was not something they could provide. It was difficult learning in that environment and it was just not the right fit for me. However, I flourished at Victory. My grades went up from Ds and Fs at Gause to As, Bs, and Cs within the first semester. In the second semester, and from that point on, I was an A-B student. A good portion of the students there were on the scholarship as well, so I never really felt out of place. I participated in my first sport, became an honors student, and did something I hadn’t thought possible two years prior… I graduated.

If Mrs. Perez had never shown me this school and the scholarship, I probably would have flunked out of high school. If I had never gone to Victory, I can say that I would not be attending college right now. Victory was the right choice for me, and I am so thankful that I even had the choice. I had attended public schools my whole life and started failing in middle school; obviously they weren’t the right fit for me but may have been for somebody else. At the end of the day, every student is different and therefore not every student will thrive under the same conditions or in the same environment. School Choice gave me a chance, and it should have the possibility to do so for other children as well.

Read more about Ashley’s story in The Lakeland Ledger: School choice scholarships help students like me

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