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Sisters make education choice scholarships a family affair

BY ROGER MOONEY

It has been nearly a decade since Jasmine and Emily Rojas graduated Abundant Life Christian Academy as eighth graders, yet in a sense, they never left.

The sisters still email or visit their former teachers and volunteer for school activities. When Jasmine needed a letter of recommendation for dental school, she turned to Abundant Life Principal Stacy Angier. When Angier needed volunteers to judge the recent science fair, she turned to Emily.

When they struggled with a science assignment during high school and college, they both turned to Loretta Camacho, their former middle school science teacher.

“That,” Angier said, “is what a school is supposed to be, right?”

It is for the Rojas sisters, who credit the academic disciplined learned there as a big key to their success at an academically competitive public high school, Florida Atlantic University, and their postgraduate studies. Jasmine is scheduled to attend dental school at Case Western Reserve University in August, and Emily is working virtually toward her master’s in music at Liberty University.

“(Abundant Life) was a big part of my foundation going into high school and going into college, facing those worldly situations and having the discernment to make the right choices,” Jasmine said.

Jasmine (Class of ’13) and Emily (Class of ’14) attended Abundant Life, a private school in Margate, Florida, with the help of Florida Tax Credit Scholarships, which are provided by corporate tax contributions to Step Up For Students.

Step Up celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. That’s 20 years of empowering parents to find an educational environment that best suits the needs of their children. During that time Step Up has awarded more than 1 million scholarships across the five programs it manages.

Claudia and Wilman Rojas are proponents of school choice. They sent their two oldest children – Bryan and Kelley – to Abundant Life because they wanted them to have a faith-based education.

“They wanted us to have that foundation, even when we’re not at home,” Emily said.

The plan was the same for Jasmine and Emily. But when the nation’s economy plunged into a deep recession in 2008, the school was no longer affordable. Or it wasn’t until the family learned of the FTC Scholarship.

“Absolutely a blessing,” Jasmine said. “We wouldn’t have been able to continue to go to that school without the scholarship.”

Said Emily: “Abundant Life is such a good school. It helped us grow with our relationship with God and keep firm with that, and with our studies as well. There wasn’t another school that would have been like that. I’m extremely grateful.”

Jasmine and Emily Rojas in 2005 while attending Abundant Life Christian Academy

In addition to being “top-notch students,” as Angier described them, Jasmine and Emily were mainstays on the girls basketball, softball and volleyball teams.

“They came to school early. They stayed late,” Angier said. “Anything we needed, they helped with. They always did their work. Polite. Respectful. There was never any discipline. Not even, ‘Hey, don’t talk in class.’ They learned in their home that you respect authority, that you work hard, that you always do your best. That permeated their time here.”

Abundant Life was K-8 when the Rojas children attended. (It has since added a high school.) That meant Jasmine and Emily needed to find a new school after eighth grade. After using education choice in the form of a tax credit scholarship to attend Abundant

Life, the Rojas family exercised another form when Jasmine and Emily both chose to attend Florida Atlantic University High School.

FAUHS is a competitive school that requires an admissions test, letters of recommendation and an interview. Students graduate with three years of college credits. While the school is not part of the local public school system, it is recognized as a public school by the State University System. Angier sent them there with recommendation letters and her blessings.

“And they were rock stars there, too,” she said.

Angier and her staff try to build a relationship with all their families, though not all are as close as the one with the Rojases. When Jasmine expressed an interest in studying nonprofit management at FAU, Angier offered to set up an internship for her at her old school. Writing letters of recommendation for any of the Rojas children was an easy task for Angier.

Claudia calls her children’s time at Abundant Life a “blessing.”

“I’m very grateful for this school,” Claudia said. “They helped my kids in so many ways, growing spiritually and growing into the persons they are right now. The experience there, I think I was more happy than they were.”

Roger Mooney, manager, communications, can be reached at rmooney@sufs.org.

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