My name is Ramona Carrasco and my daughter, Bianca, is 10 years old. I have been involved in the school choice program in Arizona for five years. When Bianca was in kindergarten, when she was five, is when we first heard about ESA. That was the year we were having problems with her public school, so we decided to try something new.
Bianca was born with down syndrome. She’s very active and she learns by imitating other kids. When she started kindergarten, they said she had to be in a classroom with special needs children, but when we saw she was imitating bad behavior and going backwards instead of forwards with her learning, it was very concerning. I knew she could do better. She could do more because she’s very independent and she learns by seeing other kids. So seeing her in that classroom with special needs children, she was doing things that she wasn’t doing before. I asked the school for the chance for her to be with other kids, but they denied her that chance.
In her school, my daughter was playing by herself at recess time, and eating by herself at lunch time. I felt like she wasn’t learning anything so I would check on her in class and she just was playing by herself. In a school with over 2,000 kids and she was playing by herself. That broke my heart. That was too much for me to see, see her alone when she needed other kids to play with.
We found out about ESA from one of my friends. She saw a flyer and called me immediately. She said, “This is for Bianca, this is something that is going to help her.” My friend knew the struggle I was having at school and the flyer said ‘send your kid to private school,’ and ‘special needs,’ so that got my attention. I checked out the website and I liked what I saw.
I was looking for a small private school with typical kids that will help her and help her learn. So she could play with other kids, that was my main concern. She learns slower than other kids, but she learns. If you tell her to do things, she does them. It may take her a little longer, but she does them. Some things she’ll learn really quick and other things take a little time, but playing with other kids and seeing her involved with other kids, was my main concern at the time.
The ESA program has been a blessing to our family. Seeing Bianca develop and be better is amazing. She’s in the third grade now and it’s been a blessing seeing her grow and learn, seeing her sitting down with her classmates, her friends. Seeing her at a play with other kids and singing and doing what other kids are doing, that’s our blessing for having the ESA for her.
For people who are opposed to the ESA program, I would tell them they need to see our kids and need to give them a chance, see what they’re capable of. If we want our kids to succeed, we will make it work. I’m making it work. I drive 22 miles to a private school and it’s all worth it. Please give our kids a chance. ESAs are a blessing for families who really need it and I’m very thankful we found out about it.
It is my passion to help others. It’s a blessing to give other families the same opportunities that we have. I pay it forward. I post on social media every day, all the things that Bianca’s doing, the therapy that she’s getting, the progress that she’s making and I want everybody to know about it. I want all the kids to have the same choices she has.