Faith Manuel reflects upon the journey of school choice for all three of her children

Editor’s note: Step Up For Students welcomes Faith Manuel as a guest blogger. Faith has had three children use the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program through Step Up For Students, and has spoken throughout Florida about school choice, and has written op-ed pieces for numerous newspapers. We hope this is the first of many blog posts by Faith.

By Faith Manuel, Guest Blogger

Blessed! I can find no other word that adequately describes my family. My oldest son, Davion, is a college junior pursing his passion for education at the University of North Florida. My middle man, Nicholas, is a high school senior who is a starting member of a nationally ranked high school football team. He is also an accomplished singer who has received some national ranking for his vocal ability. My baby girl, Faith De’Yanah, is a budding high school freshman who is a wonderful student and athlete. I am working in a job that I love which seems tailor-suited for my strengths and passion for helping others. We are (so) blessed.

Faith's family journey

From left to right, Davion Manuel-McKenney, Faith Manuel, Faith De’Yanah McKenney and Nicholas McKenney have walked hand-in-hand in their journey of school choice.

Our family proves that the start of a journey doesn’t dictate how far you travel. We have traveled a mighty long way. Geographically, it’s only been about 250 miles; but in growth as a family; we have traveled a mighty long way. My journey started in Hollywood, Fla. I was one of four girls in a very loving and supportive home. Though my parents instilled faith and values into my sisters and myself, I found myself in a peril during my ninth grade year of high school. To the shock of everyone in my family, I was pregnant with my first child. I did finish high school with the help of my supportive family, and the teen parent program in Broward County, which provided childcare on site at the school I attended.

Shortly after graduation, Davion’s dad and I decided to marry and expand our family, and along came Nicholas Jr. and next little Faith De’Yanah. By the time that I was 21, I had three kids and a failed marriage. Those circumstances are not the ideal launching pad of dreams, however, we launched nevertheless.

Desperate for a new beginning, my children and I relocated to Volusia County, Florida. I was a young divorced mother and I was in school. We lived in public housing, the only place we could afford with my part-time employment.

Davion was entering into sixth grade when I was blessed to discover Step Up For Students. The neighborhood we lived in was plagued with drugs and violence. The school Davion was zoned for was plagued with the same. I was working part time and attending school full time and could not afford to move to a better school zone. I decided to inquire about private school for Davion to protect him from going down the wrong road. The school I visited actually informed me of the Step Up program. This program afforded me the opportunity to enroll all three of my children in private school.

When Faith D. entered kindergarten, I was able to place the children at Calvary Christian Academy (CCA) in Ormond Beach. Calvary was perfect for me because it was an extension of my church, also because it was K-12 and at the time, I had a kindergartener, third-grader, and seventh-grader. I loved that I could make one stop for drop off and pick up. I also loved that I could stop by and visit all my children in the same place. I remember many times coming for lunch with Faith and staying for lunch with Nicholas and Davion. Middle-schoolers don’t always think it’s cool to have lunch with mommy, however, mommy thought it was amazing!

Faith and Davion in the earlier years.

Faith and Davion in the earlier years.

I love that Step Up For Students gives parents the flexibility to choose a school that works best for the child. I’ve taken advantage of the “choice” aspect of school choice. Davion graduated from CCA in 2012 and went on to college where he remains. He has been on the Dean’s list, President’s list, been awarded various scholarships for his academic excellence. He benefited from student employment where he was named Tutor of the Year two years in a row. Today, Davion continues to work in the math lab of Florida State College at Jacksonville while attending the University of North Florida. Nicholas has had a mix of public and private education. He attended CCA from third to seventh grade. He has attended public school from eighth grade and remains in public school today and will graduate from Mainland High School. Nicholas has been very involved in school in sports, and singing. I credit his desire to participate with his foundation at Calvary. At Calvary, it was small enough that he was able to participate in almost everything. When he transitioned to public school, he has kept that model and I believe it has worked very well for him to keep him from any negative influences at school.  Faith D tried public school in sixth grade and it proved too big for her. She was most comfortable in the family learning environment which she enjoyed at CCA. She returned to private school to finish out middle school.

I value the flexibility afforded to me to be able to help my children find a learning environment that worked best for them at the different stages of their journey.

It has been a wonderful journey; full of excitement, love, and (of course) blessings. Step Up For Students has been a humongous blessing to our family. I don’t know how things would have gone had I not been so desperate to protect Davion all those years ago. My desire to help him has allowed me to help my younger two and many other families. I remain a huge advocate for school choice personally. I tell every parent I know about the program and tell them how much school choice has helped my family’s dream come true. My dream for my children was to be well educated, great citizens, and wonderful people and I get to see my dream as a reality every time I see my kids. We are truly blessed.

Faith Manuel is a school-choice advocate, former Step Up For Students mom and a career specialist with Career Source Flagler Volusia. When she’s not cheerleading or gushing about her wonderful children, she enjoys reading, writing, movies and naps. She also leads a support group for single moms in Volusia County called STRONG Single Moms. 

 

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Alisha T

This is a Beautiful, inspiring, and captivating! Great job!

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Danielle Crosby Georges

I was neighbors with Faith and her family growing up, and it’s great to see how successful she and her children are. You as a mother have to work hard and fight for the well being of your children. Especially in regards to their education. Your story has inspired me. And I hope to do as well as you have Faith when I become a parent. God bless you and keep you!

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    Lisa Davis

    Thanks so much for commenting, Danielle. We adore Faith and her family. We’re so happy to see how well she and her family are doing. Her story is an awesome example as to why Step Up For Students and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program exists.

    Reply
    Faith Manuel

    Thank you Danielle! Great people come out of Hollywood, FL! And Great stories come from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Blessing to you as well

    Reply
Schala Mckenney

I love my Sister In Law Faith
She is a phenomenal women
And also inspired me to participate In the Step Up Program for my 3 boys.
I’m forever grateful to have school choice all thank to Step Up and my sister Faith

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    Lisa Davis

    We love her, too, Schala! Let us know if you ever want to share your story. 🙂

    Reply
    Faith Manuel

    Thank you Schala. You have had a front row seat to that whole story! I’m glad is has a happy ending. I’m also happy that you have been able to participate in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. It has been a tremendous blessing for the kids and I. I love you too. Thanks for always supporting me.

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Ms. Brannen

Wonderful job and I’m proud of you. Just to see you and your kids striving and making all types of accomplishments, I commend you and congratulations.

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Juanita Houston

Faith is an inspiration to so many mothers and families. So thankful for her and her wonderful children. I absolutely love Sister Faith. She also informed me of the program when I was at an impasse with educational choices for my children. We used the program to allow my eldest child to continue at a Montessori school that he’d been enrolled in since he was a toddler. Step Up has blessed many children with a foundation of educational excellence that prepares them for much better outcomes; of which most familes can not monetarily afford. Thank you Faith and Step Up for Students.

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    Lisa Davis

    Thank you, Yolanda! We are so glad you are part of the Step Up family! All of your stories inspire all of us at Step Up each day! Thank you for that! We are blessed to be a part of this amazing organization and the school choice movement.

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Yolanda Forman

I am so proud of my cousin and what she is doing. I can certainly relate to her story and I am so glad that she is able to share her story and help encourage others. She is a great person inside and out and she is an awesome mother! Keep up the good work lady!!

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Kathleen Payne

Faith is an amazing mother and I am blessed to call her friend. She has been very influential in my children’s lives. She is a true testament that it’s not about how you start, but how you finish. This is a great opportunity for Faith! Thank you for allowing her to share her story with this blog. I hope that it encourages others in their journey of life just as she has and continues to encourage others! I am so proud of you Faith.

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    Lisa Davis

    Thank you so much, Kathleen. We’re pretty proud of her, too. And oh, so thankful.

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Maria Bush Brown

Great job Faith….!

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Wilda Maymi

faith I know that its through God , that you have been able to accomplish what God has for your family. Its only show and teaches me to truth in God and he will made what is impossibe to be for us single moms. Love you Faith

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