PROGRAM — Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program

My name is Carmen Nieves and my two grandchildren use ESA. I am the legal guardian of Isaias Ortiz, who is 15 years old and in ninth grade. My granddaughter, Aiyana Jordan is 12 years old and in sixth grade. They both have been attending Lexington Life Academy in Phoenix, which specializes in autism. They both have been doing awesome in this school.

Isaias and Aiyana are high functioning autistic kids. They still have some trouble educationally, socially and have learning disabilities. They need a lot of help. That’s why they need to be in a school that can provide them with the help that they need, otherwise they won’t be able to catch up with their grade levels. They were attending Dos Rios and Tolleson and they weren’t doing any good for the kids. They were having behavior problems there and I just got tired until I found out the government provided the ESA.

“Before, I didn’t have that hope. Now, I have that hope.”

When we first received ESA, we were so happy. I talked to Ramona and Nelly and told them, how can we get ahold of this help for my grandchildren, because I know this would be a great help for them. The bullying and abuse they were receiving in public school was too much on the kids. They hated going there. Aiyana cried every day she was going to school. Isaias was hiding himself and saying things he shouldn’t have been saying, inappropriate things because he has speech delays. Both kids have speech delays. The schools they went to before didn’t understand that. I got frustrated by this. The school was calling me to pick them up because Isaias was saying he was going to burn down the school! Now I don’t have any of that. I have a sweet child going to school every day and loving it. Isn’t that something? He just started going to school and he has friends now. He never had friends before.

Ayana doesn’t know how to express her feelings. She doesn’t know how to talk. In her new school, there are three aids and one teacher helping these kids. To me, that’s a good thing. That’s a plus. They’re going to be able to learn. They’re going to be able to function. They’re going to be able to one day get a job. That’s my dream. That they’ll be able to have a job and be able to do what they need to do in life. Before, I didn’t have that hope. Now, I have that hope.

I’m so happy now. There are no words to describe how I feel every time my grandson tells me that he has friends. He has people that look like him, act like him. I never had that before. I never heard him talk to me that way. Even though my granddaughter is not able to express herself like Isaias doing, I know she will be able to do it. The teacher tells me she’s doing awesome. I can communicate through email, which is the way I like to communicate. That’s what she’s doing. Even the principal. Everyone’s so nice. That’s what we need for my grandkids. We need people to understand you, to look after you because sometimes they don’t know how to ask for things. The school is very structured and that’s what they need.

I am so grateful for this program, for Isaias and Ayana, and for kids like them. They need programs like this. They need this type of tool so that one day they can be part of society. Be functional. Be able to get a job. 

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of Hispanic parents and guardians who do not know about this program. I’m the type of person that keeps asking questions and there aren’t a lot of people like me. But I’ve met parents who don’t know about this program. You have the chance to put your kids in a private school, where they can teach your kids the way they learn. We need to get the word out there. Now that I’m in it, I pass the information along to everyone I know. 

I love my grandbabies. I would do anything and everything for them. I would go to the end of the world to help my grandbabies.

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