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PROGRAM — Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship

Ilen Perez-Valdes 

After fleeing Cuba when she was 11 years old, my mother tirelessly juggled three jobs to provide for both my grandmother and me. Despite her relentless efforts, our familial dynamic was often stressed by the necessity of managing my extensive medical needs.  

Since birth, I grappled with the challenges of navigating four chronic medical conditions, each imposing its own set of hurdles on my daily life. Vital medications and rigorous treatment regimens became integral components of my survival.  

When it came time for me to attend Kindergarten, my initial exposure to public education proved to be a traumatizing experience. The school system failed to adequately accommodate my medical requirements. The repercussions were dire, resulting in a nearly three-month-long hospitalization, ultimately resulting in me having to repeat kindergarten.  

Recognizing the necessity for a learning environment that could incorporate my medical needs, my mother looked for other alternatives. Regrettably, our financial situation didn’t allow for affording a private education.  

However, undeterred by adversity, my mother diligently explored every available avenue until she found the  Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship facilitated by the Step Up For Students scholarship program. Her discovery paved the way for my enrollment in St. Agatha Catholic School for K-8 and later, Immaculata-La Salle High School for grades 9-12.  

The transition to private schooling proved transformative. Not only did I receive the medical support I needed, but I also flourished within the smaller classroom settings. Diligent school nurses became my best allies, ensuring meticulous attention to my health needs. They not only helped my academic advancement but also bolstered my overall well-being. 

Thanks to education opportunity, I am attending the University of Miami on a full academic scholarship and hope to pursue a degree in Neuroscience. My trajectory underscores the profound impact of school choice, particularly for medically vulnerable students, an aspect often overlooked in the discourse surrounding education policy. 

My personal story underscores the significance of advocating for equitable access to educational opportunities that encompass holistic considerations, including medical support. It’s a cause I’m deeply committed to championing, recognizing the transformative potential it holds for countless individuals, like myself, who deserve nothing less than the chance to thrive academically and beyond. 


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