LEIDIANA CANDELARIO

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For my family, coming from Dominican Republic to the United States of America was a transition to countless possibilities and opened doors. For me, it meant being removed from a lifestyle I loved to a city that never seemed to press pause.

During my first years in Florida, I gradually became the outcast of my elementary school. This made me genuinely hate education. Every weekday I anxiously waited to go home from school, as home became my shelter. Home was a small room behind my father’s shop where my family of five stayed. The nine year old version of me was unable to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“School choice became that light.”

The moment my father, with excitement in his eyes, told me “Mi hija, nos dieron la beca!” I knew the best of changes would come. My sisters and I were granted the Step Up for Students scholarship, and so my journey at a private school began.

In June of 2018, I graduated from the school that saw my nine year-trajectory and helped me grow from a scared fourth grader into a well-equipped high school graduate. While many may not understand because they have never experienced it, school choice represented freedom.

School choice meant opportunities and inevitable growth. Thanks to school choice, I learned to love education. I learned to reach for my wildest dreams. And I learned that I am cared for by a small school in Little Havana with a faculty I call family.

I sincerely believe students should have the opportunity to attend a school they love, a school where they find themselves succeeding. My family realized I was not excelling at my district school, and though there seemed to be no other solution, the Step Up for Students scholarship showed us a way.

Choice brings liberty. Choice brings opportunity. Choice brings life. I am grateful beyond measures, and because of that choice, I am excitedly entering my second year of college, pursuing a career as both a teacher and a writer.

The best is yet to come.

BECOME A VOICE FOR CHOICE
BECOME A VOICE FOR CHOICE