Yisehak Abraham: My School Choice Story

Growing up in a low-income household in D.C., my options of where to go to school were limited. The only option for my parents at the time was to send me to the nearest public school. Had someone asked my parents about my school or education, they may have responded without a single complaint. I was, for the most part, a smart kid who was active in school and extracurricular activities. So, what was there to worry about? It was not until the fourth grade that I became fed up with the school. The older I got, the less I felt stimulated/inspired by the school and, in fact, discovered the environment to be not too congenial for those who took their academics seriously.

In the fifth grade, I had the privilege of being awarded a scholarship to attend a private school by the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). My family chose to send me to Rock Creek International School (now closed) which was an International Baccalaureate school located in DuPont Circle. As a kid both eager to learn and from a very humble background, the transition to Rock Creek felt magical, to say the least. The school had everything: laptops for each student to take home, language classes, friendly teachers who seemed just as passionate about my learning as I was, and more. Although I wanted something better than my old school, I was overwhelmed by just how better this new school was.

The new school was better in virtually every aspect. With a lower student-to-teacher ratio, I received more individual attention (especially when it came to reading comprehension and essay writing). I was challenged and motivated in ways that took even my parents by surprise. For instance, by the sixth grade I wrote my first extended research essay that was over ten pages long. The following summer I went on a school trip to Greece for two weeks. It’s safe to say that this experience elevated my expectations for both myself and for the schools I attended afterwards.

I attended Rock Creek until the seventh grade. Afterwards I went to Coeus International School for eighth grade before going to Archbishop Carroll High School–all with the help of the OSP. In high school, I won first place JV debater in the regional metro finals for the Washington Arlington Catholic Forensics League and was a two-time State Winner and National Finalist of the American Legion’s High School Oratorical Contest. I graduated from Archbishop Carroll (with honors) in 2012 and graduated from Columbia University with a major in Economics in 2016. Currently, I am a research assistant in the economics department at Harvard University hoping to pursue graduate studies.

The OSP provided a blueprint for my success. Many of my accomplishments can be attributed to skills that I have gained through the access to stellar institutions made possible by the voucher program. For this reason, I was compelled to visit D.C. to share my school choice experience. During my trip, I was glad to meet other participants from similar voucher programs and to learn about their unique accounts. This trip furthered my belief in the success of such programs and of the positive impact that school choice can have on the lives of ambitious individuals and their families.