Student Spotlight

King family offers a dozen reasons why ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ when it comes to education
By ROGER MOONEY LAKE MARY, Florida – The King family is together on a Saturday morning – and that means[...]
Two Step Up For Students schools earn coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools distinction
BY ROGER MOONEY Holy Spirit Catholic School, a preK-8 school in Jacksonville with an enrollment of 219, and St. Thomas[...]
Willette’s story: Vibing to her own frequency and helping everyone she meets along the way
BY ROGER MOONEY JACKSONVILLE, Florida – Willette Treadway wants to help. She wants to help her classmates, teachers and administrators[...]
Republic National Distributing Company donates $82 million to help provide scholarships for Florida schoolchildren
Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), one of the nation’s leading wholesale alcohol beverage distributors, has contributed $82 million to Step[...]
Education choice scholarship helps Khairi dream big
ROGER MOONEY MIAMI GARDENS, Florida – Like nearly every football-playing high school senior in the country, Khairi Muhammad dreams of[...]
Gas South donates $500,000 to support Florida schoolchildren
Gas South, one of the leading natural gas marketers in the Southeast, has contributed $500,000 to Step Up For Students,[...]
Of courage, basketball and conquering the obstacles in his way: The Justin Williams story
BY ROGER MOONEY OCOEE, Florida – Justin Williams was 8 when he underwent surgery to allow more room for his[...]
‘Better options’ for their daughter included a move to America and an education choice scholarship
BY ROGER MOONEY Roberto Porras was at his job as a pharmaceutical rep in his native Venezuela when his wife,[...]
School is not out for summer at TRU Prep Academy, which has adopted a year-round schedule
BY ROGER MOONEY MIAMI GARDENS, Florida – The calendar said it was July 6, but parents pulled their cars to[...]
How do you turn students into readers? At Alpha Learning Academy, by turning a classroom into a library
BY ROGER MOONEY ORLANDO, Florida – Shakelia Henderson sat behind the desk inside a classroom that was recently converted into[...]
After taking charge of his education, Step Up alumni achieves goal of attending University of Florida
BY ROGER MOONEY On a Wednesday morning in early January, a day after he turned 20, Josep Amiguet walked into[...]
Former Step Up For Students scholar chasing major league dream
BY ROGER MOONEY On a sun-dappled Sunday afternoon in mid-April, Jay Allen gave his mother a gift she will treasure[...]
School Choice Boyz: Christopher Columbus High in Miami shows a recipe for success
Nathan Cunneen offered some thoughts on Christopher Columbus High School in Miami after he and Walter Blanks Jr. visited the[...]
Education choice alumni has clear vision for his future: ‘I want to be a missionary’
BY ROGER MOONEY FORT MYERS, Florida – Zechariah Edwards sat inside the principal’s office at Sonshine Christian Academy one morning[...]
New autism center in Florida Keys offers education, therapy, resources – and hope
For 23 years, the Carrie Brazer Center for Autism in Miami has served students on the autism spectrum and others[...]
Earthquake survivor uses education choice scholarship to become a ‘Rising Star’
BY ROGER MOONEY MARGATE, Florida – Sophonie Jean Baptiste was in the family’s second-floor apartment the day in 2010 when[...]
Cancer doesn’t interrupt path to med school for alumni of Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program
BY ROGER MOONEY It was the beginning of the 2019-20 school year and Luke Desclefs was smoothly sailing toward graduating[...]
Education savings account allows Dylan to gain independence one step at a time
BY ROGER MOONEY SEMINOLE, Florida – Dylan Quessenberry was 15 when he walked up a flight of stairs for the[...]
Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company donates $5 million to help Florida students
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.– Step Up For Students announced April 28 a $5 million contribution to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship[...]
Podcast: Florida mom looks forward to additional benefits of education savings account
Karen and David Prewitt with their son, Caleb. reimaginED Senior Writer Lisa Buie talks with Karen Prewitt, whose son, Caleb,[...]
Podcast: Young, energetic and eager to enlighten a new audience about Education Choice
Nate Cunneen and Walter Blanks Jr. take a selfie with students who attended their talk on education choice at the[...]
Northeast Florida Catholic school lauded for outreach efforts to immigrant families
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School principal Barbara Kavanagh poses with students who are participating in the school’s rural education[...]
Two families, football and education choice helps Junior realize his dreams of a college scholarship
BY ROGER MOONEY TAMPA, Florida – Jessie “Junior” Vandeross considers himself “blessed” because: His father died when he was 3.He[...]
Catholic high school returns to Key West. Scholarships help make it possible
For the first time in nearly 40 years, Catholic high school education will return to Key West. The Basilica School[...]
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[...]
Cadence Bank provides education opportunities for more than 100 students with donation to Step Up
BY ASHLEY ZARLE Cadence Bank (NYSE: CADE), formerly BancorpSouth Bank, today announced a $800,000 contribution to Step Up For Students[...]
Education choice scholarship helps Ny’Reon create blueprint for his future
By ROGER MOONEY Ny’Reon Shuman has a blueprint for his future. The 17-year-old has designs on being an architect. He[...]
Dreams of owning a home, quality schools for the boys come true thanks to education choice scholarship
BY ROGER MOONEY ORLANDO, Florida – Juliette Harrell was 17 when she told her mom she was pregnant. She was[...]
Step Up For Students ranked 13th in Forbes list of 100 top American charities
Step Up For Students continues to rise among the top nonprofits in the country, breaking into the top-15 of Forbes’[...]
LiFT Academy receives boost from Tampa Bay Lightning as it prepares to move to new campus
BY ROGER MOONEY High above the ice at Amalie Arena during a recent Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game stood Keli[...]
20 years of Educational Opportunity: Once a beneficiary of education choice, Ashley is now an advocate
BY ROGER MOONEY The first time Ashley Elliott realized her story could make a difference was when she found herself[...]
Step Up For Students celebrates 20 years of providing Families Choices
Florida’s largest nonprofit scholarship administrator is celebrating its 20th anniversary of providing families more options in their children’s education. Step[...]
Step Up’s Rising Stars Award programs returns this year with in-person and virtual events
BY ROGER MOONEY Step Up For Students’ Rising Stars Award program returns this year with in-person events, a virtual event[...]
The Foundation Academy students march for unity, education choice at MLK Jr. Day parade
BY ROGER MOONEY For Daarina Cue, an 11th grader at The Foundation Academy in Jacksonville, marching in the city’s annual[...]
Conn’s HomePlus Supports Florida Students Through Scholarship Program
Conn’s HomePlus has contributed $174,000 to Step Up For Students, helping 23 deserving Florida schoolchildren access the right education to[...]
Reading grades improve, love of books grows with the help of Florida’s Reading Scholarship
BY ROGER MOONEY Lindsey Pawlishen was so confident she would pass her love of reading to her daughter that she[...]
Education choice scholarship leads Step Up student-athlete to U.S. Naval Academy
BY ROGER MOONEY Denim Edwards slid to his knees as he caught the ball in the end zone, scoring a[...]
Step Up receives 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for 15th year
BY ROGER MOONEY Step Up For Students recently received the highest honor from Charity Navigator, the non-profit that evaluates more[...]
Step Up scholarship to a private school ‘changed our whole entire lives’
BY ROGER MOONEY BROOKSVILLE, Florida – Vadin Mankotya played second base for EXP Realty this season, proudly wearing the jersey[...]
DTCC continues its support of scholarship program for Florida schoolchildren
The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), the premier post-trade market infrastructure for the global financial services industry, has contributed[...]
Sunshine Health donates $20 million to support Florida schoolchildren
Sunshine Health will fund scholarships for 2,625 deserving students with a $20 million contribution to Step Up For Students, the[...]
Addi’s Memorial Park: A place to remember a brave little girl
By Scott Kent Outside the second-story window of Addison Sinclair’s pink bedroom in Windermere, Florida, across an asphalt bike path,[...]
The curious climb of neurodivergent actor JJ Humphrey as he prepares for the biggest role of his career
BY ROGER MOONEY TAMPA ­­– Christopher Boone knows every prime number up to 7,057. He hates the color yellow. He[...]
Entirety K-12: Where learning is fueled by the imagination
BY ROGER MOONEY BROOKSVILLE – Six individuals who attend Entirety K-12 private school form two lines of three inside the[...]
Florida Reading Scholarship program helps twins stay on pace and excel in middle school
BY LISA BUIE TAMPA – Since they were babies, Darnell Taylor’s identical twin daughters, Janae, and Sasha, have loved books.[...]
Step Up For Students, the nation’s largest education choice scholarship funding organization, is proud to announce that Denisha Merriweather has[...]
South Florida Auto Dealers Association contributes $21 million to fund Hope Scholarships for state’s most vulnerable students
Miami Beach, FL – Step Up For Students, the non-profit organization that manages Florida’s Hope Scholarship Program, recently recognized the[...]
Prenda microschools provide education choice opportunities for educators as well as students
BY ROGER MOONEY After 13 years of teaching at district schools in Shreveport, Louisiana, Pam Lee was searching for something[...]
From class clown to class leader with the help of an education choice scholarship
By ROGER MOONEY TAMPA – One of Margene Avery’s first moves as principal at Tampa Bay Christian Academy was to[...]
State, Step Up working to fund students
Several families with students on the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA, formerly Gardiner) and the income-based[...]
Adelante! Why a former Step Up scholar completed his UF degree during rookie season in NFL
BY ROGER MOONEY Where to begin with CJ Henderson? That the former Step Up For Students scholar used his time[...]
Tips on transitioning your child to a new school or learning environment
By ROGER MOONEY The Buddy Bench found on the playground at Christ the King Catholic School in Jacksonville is a[...]
From jumping rope to riding bikes, education savings accounts help those with autism expand their world
BY ROGER MOONEY SARASOTA – Sophia Slaughter, who is 15, recently learned to jump rope. Maybe that is not a[...]
From Ethiopia to No. 1 in his high school class to UF with the help of a private school scholarship
By ROGER MOONEY For Yonas Worku, obstacles are opportunities. When he was 5, Yonas and his mother emigrated from Ethiopia[...]
Private school scholarship ‘molded me into a better person’
By ROGER MOONEY Lucas Kirschner came for the basketball. He stayed for the education. The recent graduate of Miami Christian[...]
‘This is the year my daughter learned to read’
Kaelani is overcoming dyslexia with the help of the Orton-Gillingham Approach and a Step Up scholarship By ROGER MOONEY Kaelani[...]
MVP on the court, MVP in the classroom thanks to a private school scholarship
By ROGER MOONEY Praise Temple Christian Academy teacher Anna Langley found herself a little teary-eyed recently, while watching the seniors[...]
New Florida law expands K-12 Scholarships by $200 million
More students eligible for private school and more STAFF REPORT Since Gov. Ron DeSantis put pen to paper on May[...]
‘Who’s going to be the next villain?’ The story of one survivor of bullying
By ROGER MOONEY Brendan Thompson remembers the day in the fourth grade when he was jumped by a pack of[...]
Zoe’s future looks bright thanks to private school scholarship
By ROGER MOONEY Zoe Elverillo’s mother dropped out of school in the eighth grade. So did Zoe’s brother. Zoe, however,[...]
Tripping the light fantastic while building confidence in the ballroom
Gardiner students learn to tango and much more By ROGER MOONEY SARASOTA, Florida – Sarah Parkerson has her left hand[...]
Florida Legislature is normalizing, expanding access to education choice
By DOUG TUTHILL The Florida House and Senate have sent Gov. Ron DeSantis legislation that will continue normalizing and expanding[...]
The benefits of private schools
By ROGER MOONEY Most mornings, history teacher Quintarries Upshaw stands in the hallway and greets the arriving students at the[...]
Education choice helps in transformation to student council president
BY ROGER MOONEY The early grades were not easy for Joshua Joseph. Trouble seemed to find him. “I had anger issues,” Joshua, now 14, said. “People would[...]
Grandparents raising grandkids: A look at one grandfamily
By ROGER MOONEY Charles Sears recalled a conversation he had last winter with Stephanie Engelhardt, principal of Christ the King[...]
How an education savings account turned a child’s room into a ‘destination’
Editor’s Note: This post originally ran April 1, 2021 on the redefinED blog, which is hosted by Step Up For Students. This[...]
Education savings accounts offer creative solutions for students with learning differences
Editor’s Note: This post originally ran March 25, 2021 on the redefinED blog, which is hosted by Step Up For Students. This[...]
How an education savings account is helping a Gardiner scholar see the world – virtually
Editor’s Note: This post originally ran March 18, 2021 on the redefinED blog, which is hosted by Step Up For[...]
Horse therapy opens new world for blind teen
Editor’s Note:  This post originally ran March 11, 2021 on the redefinED blog, which is hosted by Step Up For Students. This is the first in[...]
A sigh of relief: How the Hope Scholarship helped change one student’s life
By ROGER MOONEY ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – There was a reason for Nick Guiley’s tears and his utter refusal to[...]
How a great-grandmother and a Step Up scholarship changed the lives of two young girls
By ROGER MOONEY On a Friday morning in March 2020, a judge granted Sharon Strickland temporary custody of her great-granddaughter,[...]
Your child is being bullied at school? There is Hope
By ROGER MOONEY The bullying at school began when Jordyn Simmons-Outland was in the second grade. He was punched and[...]
Putting the ‘personal’ in training for those on the autism spectrum
By ROGER MOONEY Reid Stakelum was tired when he entered Equally Fit in Tampa in the afternoon, a result, his[...]
Plenty of school choices for children with special needs
By ROGER MOONEY At three months old, Joshua Sandoval was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis complex, a genetic disorder where the[...]
Gardiner scholar is a Cystic Fibrosis pioneer: ‘We’re making science right now’
By ROGER MOONEY Picture the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming with its majestic peaks and breathtaking vistas. Look closely[...]
All in the family: How Step Up scholarships shaped the lives of Linzi’s 6 children
By ROGER MOONEY Linzi Morris said she didn’t have a framework for her children’s education when she applied for a[...]
Elisabeth’s story: From a mom’s worst nightmare to a mom’s best dream
By ROGER MOONEY Elisabeth Edwards came home from school one afternoon and told her mom that she wanted to die.[...]
Love of learning returns for this student with Down syndrome
By LISA A. DAVIS On most Friday mornings 14-year-old Matthew Mezzei springs awake in the 5 o’clock hour, excited to[...]
How a toy spider led a young girl who was bullied to a new school and a rooster to his calling
By ROGER MOONEY Natalie Ryan had been punched and kicked by classmates in her district school in previous years, but[...]
A pair of Step Up scholarships are a ‘godsend’ for the Hopstetters
By ROGER MOONEY An email arrived in Michele Hopstetter’s inbox on July 16 that made her cry. “Happy tears,” she[...]
Of baby supplies, care packages for soldiers and feeding the needy: The tale of one student’s charity
By ROGER MOONEY After he helped deliver food to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic in late February, Jack Figueredo[...]
Brave warrior, inspiring model flourishes with scholarship
Editor's note: This story was originally posted on June 28, 2018. We are taking a look back at some of[...]
Cristo Rey’s first graduating class took the path less taken
By ROGER MOONEY A pamphlet for a new private Catholic high school arrived in the mail one day when Abi’ya[...]
Adopting special needs children turned the Cogan family into a Krewe
By ROGER MOONEY TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There were more children like Karwen back in her native China, born with clubfoot[...]
The many puzzle pieces that tell the story of Ryan Sleboda
By ROGER MOONEY If it were any other spring but this one, Ryan Sleboda would stand in front of the[...]
The world is watching and sweating along with the students in Father Lopez virtual gym class
By ROGER MOONEY It’s 9 a.m. on a Tuesday, Larissa Maloney, standing on a mat in the corner of her[...]
How 9 Gardiner students and their teacher opened the world to Audible
By ROGER MOONEY Nine Gardiner Scholarship students on the autism spectrum wrote an essay and gave the world a gift[...]
Busy 48 hours includes trip to State Capitol, trophies for Piney Grove Boys Academy
By ROGER MOONEY Alton Bolden, principal at Piney Grove Boys Academy in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, has a new name for[...]
Young violinists bring joy to audiences and teachers
By ROGER MOONEY DUNEDIN, Fla. – Manny Perez used to stand in the back of the violin ensemble, hoping to[...]
The fire still burns for Rev. H.K. Matthews as he fights for education choice
By ROGER MOONEY JACKSONVILLE, FL – Leaning his 92-year-old body on a wooden cane as he walked, the Rev. H.K.[...]
Mount Zion students show they care with supplies sent to hurricane survivors
By ROGER MOONEY St. PETERSBURG, FL – The plastic boxes, originally meant to hold school supplies like pencils and markers[...]
Reading scholarship boosts confidence, scores
By LISA A. DAVIS In third grade, Kiersten Covic’s reading score on the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) was high enough[...]
Step Up helps Xioamara grow into a strong and successful high school student
By Catherine Durkin Robinson When her daughter Xioamara Kitchen was born prematurely and with a heart defect, Deaundrice held the[...]
Time to nominate students, teachers, parents for Step Up’s Rising Stars Awards
By ROGER MOONEY It is time to recognize outstanding members of the Step Up For Students family – students, teachers[...]
A different way of learning gives Gardiner scholar the academic LIFT he needs
By ROGER MOONEY MIAMI LAKES, Fla. – Joshua Sandoval sat at a table inside the LIFT Educational Academy and, with[...]
Jailine Garcia has a wish: ‘I kind of want to do something in our world’
By ROGER MOONEY CLEARWATER, Fla. – One day last summer during a school-sponsored trip to Spain and Italy, Jailine Garcia[...]
If you can sing it, you can learn it: How music is helping schoolchildren improve their reading
By ROGER MOONEY    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. –During the weeks leading up to the start of fifth grade, when Cee J[...]
With 2 mouse clicks and a login, telepractice brings speech therapy to Gardiner student’s rural home
By ROGER MOONEY Beth Flowers logs onto the computer set up in the dining area of the family’s home, and[...]
Lofty grades, lofty goals lead to QuestBridge Scholarships for Jesuit High graduates
By ROGER MOONEY TAMPA – Trace Nuss was in the library at Jesuit High School a few weeks before Christmas[...]
Young readers learn value of collaboration as friends help a skunk find his stink
By ROGER MOONEY It’s a sad day for a skunk who loses his stink, especially when the skunk is the[...]
A science project and a hit movie has this scholar reaching for the stars
By ROGER MOONEY PENSACOLA, Fla. – Zanaya Chase wants to be a fashion designer. Or a scientist. Or, a fashion[...]
Latin, Julius Cesar and a second chance at senior year
By ROGER MOONEY DAVIE, Fla. – Josh Carlson pulled up a chair inside the office of the school guidance counselor[...]
Patience, understanding bring scholarship student back from brink
Glad Tidings Academy teacher Andrene Donaldson, left, makes it a point to respond with patience and understanding when working with[...]
Recession crushed family business but not the dream of quality education for their boys
With the help of Florida Tax Credit Scholarships from Step Up For Students, Jonas, left, and Jack Figueredo are thriving[...]
Skylar Goeb didn’t let a rough start to life prevent her from soaring
By ROGER MOONEY ZEPHYRHILLS – Sitting opposite where his 8-year-old granddaughter stood near their dining room table, George Hill, nodded[...]
The family no one knew was homeless
Isabella, Ruthanne, and Gabriella Dumas have a home at Saint Ambrose Catholic School in Deerfield Beach, Fla. By JEFF BARLIS[...]
Once bullied, now safe, happy, and thriving
By JEFF BARLIS BELLE GLADE, Fla. – When she’s in class, the look on Armani Powe’s face is solemn, focused.[...]
Gardiner scholar’s high school experience the stuff of his mom’s dreams
By ROGER MOONEY Nicolas Ratliff-Batista is a senior at Monsignor Pace High School in Miami Gardens with a 4.5 GPA[...]
Adopted siblings thrive in private school after severe neglect in early childhood
Editor’s note: To mark National Adoption Awareness Month, we highlight the tax credit scholarship that serves children who are or[...]
Military family on mission to raise awareness for Gardiner scholarships
By JEFF BARLIS TAMPA, Fla. – Two months after her son was diagnosed with autism, Laurie Guzman felt broken and[...]
Scholarship, private school led a tormented girl to happiness
By JEFF BARLIS MIAMI – It’s hard to miss Nicole Meneses at Pneuma Christian Academy. If she’s not front and[...]
Scholarship helps smiles return for student and her parents
Editor’s note: This story was originally posted on redefinED on February 10, 2017. By JEFF BARLIS Maria and Marcos Verciano will never[...]
From bullied and failing to Hope, honors and college
By JEFF BARLIS GROVELAND, Fla. – The sign at their church trumpeted the opening of a new private school: HOPE[...]
Choosing the right school helped turn tragedy into triumph
By JEFF BARLIS ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – In the damp, rising heat of a late-morning graduation ceremony in May, with[...]
After school choice helps her, she helps Puerto Rico
By JEFF BARLIS Last fall, as she started her senior year in high school, IvonD’liz Chernoff was full of love[...]
Scholarship student soars after hurdling language barrier
By JEFF BARLIS The day after Maria Corrales’ tear-soaked graduation ceremony from St. Brendan High School, her mother, Carmen Urquijo,[...]
Football? Academics? Scholarship student chooses both at Dartmouth
By JEFF BARLIS Robert Crockett III is engaged in hand-to-hand combat with his uncooperative red-and-white striped necktie as a photographer[...]
Student Spotlight: Scholarship student enjoying the calm after the storm
  By JEFF BARLIS The lean, angular kid arrived at his new school three years ago, whip-smart and rage-filled. TJ[...]
Brothers making great strides at Jacksonville School for Autism
By GEOFF FOX Ethan Alexander was decompressing in a multi-purpose room at Jacksonville School for Autism. The lights were out[...]
A private school off the beaten path was the key to a major turnaround
By JEFF BARLIS Kelly Perkins was in a full-blown panic when she woke up at 5:15 a.m. and her son[...]
Choice scholarship saved life of bullying victim
By JEFF BARLIS The note was written on a torn piece of paper slipped through a slot in Hannah Waibel’s[...]
No limits: Gardiner Scholarships fuel big dreams for the Alexander family
By GEOFF FOX Abby Alexander is a 9-year-old entrepreneur who has developed – and hit the local market with –[...]
Born drug-addicted and poor, a Step Up graduate’s story set for a happy ending
By LISA A. DAVIS If Ashley Elliott’s story continued to unwind the way it began, it was sure to be[...]
School choice scholarship was her ticket out of extreme poverty
By JEFF BARLIS At Seven Rivers Christian School in Lecanto, there’s a list of core values for students. Among them:[...]
The right school choice made all the difference for De’Asia Waters
By JEFF BARLIS Demetria Hutley-Johnson can laugh about it now, but not long ago her daughter, De’Asia Waters, was having[...]
From bullying victim to valedictorian
Editor's note: This story was originally posted on redefinED on July 18, 2016. It's an interesting look at how bullying[...]
School choice scholarship ‘saved’ bullying victim
By JEFF BARLIS  Middle school is tough for a lot of kids. For Valentin Mendez, it was hell. At night,[...]
Siblings from Argentina adjust and thrive thanks to Step Up For Students’ scholarships
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on the redefinED blog on Aug. 7, 2017. The blog is hosted by Step[...]
Scholarship fosters better relationship between school and adoptive brothers
Editor’s note: November is National Adoption Month, which allows us to spotlight that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, the nation’s[...]
Scholarship gives strength to bullied student
By DAVID TUTHILL Jacob Monastra came home from school in tears every day. He struggled in class and was often[...]
Jacksonville private school, scholarship fueled student’s emotional turnaround
By JEFF BARLIS  Lost.That’s where Pamela Howard feared her son, Malik Ferrell, would end up after years of struggles at different[...]
Scholarship alum grateful after being selected in the NFL draft
By JEFF BARLIS    Anthony Walker Jr. sat in his home, ear to cell phone, new coach on the line. Then[...]
Tampa Catholic grad going from one scholarship to another
By JEFF BARLIS    When she walked across the stage as a freshly minted graduate of Tampa Catholic High School in[...]
Scholarship, Kingdom Academy spurred turnaround for Miami student
By JEFF BARLIS  Eleven-year-old Henezy Berrios’ sparkling brown eyes crinkle in the corners when she smiles, which is just about all[...]
From street life to college life – thanks to a private school scholarship
By JEFF BARLIS  Deion Washington didn’t plan to speak to lawmakers. But as he sat with classmates in a committee meeting[...]
With the right school and a portable scholarship, she found her voice and graduated with honor
By JEFF BARLIS  Eliya McDonald was in ninth grade when everything fell apart.First her mom was diagnosed with frontal lobe epilepsy,[...]
School choice scholarship helps Orlando graduate literally soar
By JEFF BARLIS As a boy, Orlando Rivera dreamed of being a pilot. He grew up in the shadow of[...]
Josh Clay’s boulevard of unbroken dreams
By DAVID TUTHILL Josh Clay sometimes speaks at such a frantic speed he needs to slow himself down. But he[...]
Wesley Hamilton: Another Bill Gates?
  By GEOFF FOX Wesley Hamilton, a curious, curly-haired six-year-old was blessed with a high IQ. When he was 3,[...]
Little Catholic school has big impact on Step Up scholar
By JEFF BARLIS Eventually, Jodi Haley said, she had enough. She felt she had no choice but to remove her[...]
Eduardo Rivero’s amazing turnaround
By GEOFF FOX Eduardo Rivero was a sixth-grader reading at a fourth-grade level when school started last year. He was[...]
Student found the right kind of peer pressure with scholarship
By JEFF BARLIS Heidi Gonzalez saw the warning signs. Her daughter Samantha Delgado had just started sixth grade at her[...]
Earthquake, then bullying leads Haitian girl to new educational path
By JEFF BARLIS Shalala Dubuisson was 13 years old when a massive earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010, killing tens of[...]
Student spotlight: Darius Lue
  By GEOFF FOX Outgoing, loyal, charismatic, hard-working. The adjectives used by officials at Seffner Christian Academy to describe senior[...]
Meet Ben Zanca, Gardiner scholar
By GEOFF FOX Doctors didn’t expect Ben Zanca to live very long. Even before his birth, fluid was drained from[...]
Step Up scholarship helps boost Ariely’s grades and confidence
By GEOFF FOX Linery Burgos’ voice cracked with emotion as she spoke about the academic progress of her oldest daughter,[...]
Student Spotlight: Kamelia Martin was a girl without hope
BY GEOFF FOX Nine years ago, Kamelia Martin was born perfectly healthy in Bulgaria. Yet, her adoptive mother, Christen Martin,[...]
Student Spotlight: Step Up graduate Savannah Lang contemplates the future
BY GEOFF FOX Savannah Lang has time to weigh her options. The 2015 graduate of Merritt Island Christian School (MICS)[...]
Students Spotlight: Alani Charles on a mission to help others
By GEOFF FOX Ten years after graduating from The Rock School, a K-12 Christian school in Gainesville, Alani Charles is[...]
Student Spotlight: Graduate Travis Blanks
By GEOFF FOX The joy in Travis Blanks’ voice was obvious. He had recently returned from scenic Cabo San Lucas,[...]
Student Spotlight: Lacey Nowling, Faith Christian Academy, Jay, Fla.
By JEFF BARLIS As early as sixth grade, Lacey Nowling knew her love for children was calling her to become[...]
Student Spotlight: Darius Cook of Orlando
By GEOFF FOX Darius Cook wants to someday become an entrepreneur. He isn’t sure yet what type of business he[...]
Jordan Massie transitions from hurt to healer, thanks to school choice
By RON MATUS Two years ago, Jordan Massie was lost and hurt. Rocked by turbulence at home, she was skipping[...]
Student Spotlight: Deondre Pride, Victory Christian Academy in Lakeland
BY JEFF BARLIS When Deondre Pride transferred to Victory Christian Academy as a junior in high school, it took him[...]
Student Spotlight: Kira Murillo, Meadowbrook Academy, Ocala
By SHERRI ACKERMAN As a first-grader, Kira Murillo developed stomach pains every Sunday night. That’s how much she hated going[...]
Student Spotlight: Katie Cutford
 By SHERRI ACKERMAN   When Katie Cutford attended her neighborhood district school in Lake City, classmates sometimes made fun of[...]
Student Spotlight: The Garnes children (Malkia, Rukiya, Osakwe, Anaya, Ngozi, Naima and Aakil Garnes)
By SHERRI ACKERMAN   When her three eldest children were ready to start their formal education, Deidre Christopher-Garnes sent them to[...]
Student Spotlight: The Cherry Family
  By SHERRI ACKERMAN When Demetrius Cherry’s commissions plummeted at his cell phone sales job two years ago, his family[...]
Student spotlight: Hayden Hernandez and Cambria Rogers
By SHERRI ACKERMAN It didn’t take long for Jenna Rogers to realize her son’s neighborhood school wasn’t working for him.[...]
Student spotlight: Ryan Tetoff, graduate of Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory in Hollywood, Fla.
By Sherri Ackerman June Welcome looked forward to sending her son, Ryan Tetoff, to his neighborhood school. By first grade,[...]
Student Spotlight: Denisha Merriweather, Step Up graduate; USF graduate student
By Sherri Ackerman The daughter of a teenaged mom and high school dropout, Denisha Merriweather thought she was destined for[...]
Student Spotlight: Savannah Lang, Merritt Island Christian School graduate
By Estefania “Nia” Nunez-Brady Rhonda Ford wanted more of a say in her only child’s education. But the divorced mom[...]
Layla and Jeremiah Cirino
By Lisa A. Davis Meet Layla and Jeremiah Cirino of Kissimmee. They began their academic life attending their neighborhood school,[...]
Derek Schroeder
After a decade of their son using a Step Up For Students scholarship, Lisa and Michael Schroeder wanted another student[...]
Killian Korkes
When Kelly Korkes visited Christ the King Lutheran School for the first time, she fell in love with its small[...]
Denisha Merriweather
Denisha Merriweather attended Esprit de Corps Center for Learning in Jacksonville with help from a Step Up For Students scholarship,[...]
Mario Tobar
Mario Tobar was in his freshman year of high school when his mother, Kenia Palacios, confronted him about his choices[...]
Sophia Brown
Due to complications with her birth in 2006, Sophia Brown was in need of intensive medical care after entering the[...]
Gilbert Brothers
Imagine coming home to discover your house was foreclosed on. Beverly Gilbert doesn’t have to imagine. That was the reality[...]
Semaj Iwan Mack
Even in the womb, doctors noticed Semaj Iwan Mack was considerably smaller than other babies. By the time he was[...]
Gabriel Shimoni
Kathryn Miller worried when her son Gabriel Shimoni started waking up sick to his stomach in the mornings and complaining[...]
Jordan Garcia
By  PERRY ATHANASON Cristina Valdes noticed her fourth-grade son’s interest in learning start to fade and his behavior slip during[...]
Kevin Rodriguez
By  PERRY ATHANASON At 13, Kevin Rodriguez is an old soul. He does not talk much, but listens intently. He[...]
Gianna Viale
By  PERRY ATHANASON When Gianna Viale started first grade at the Good Shepherd Catholic School in Orlando, she had no[...]
Demonte Thomas
On graduation day 2013 for Franklin Academy in Tallahassee, the sanctuary at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church was packed with 1,500[...]
Gaby Garcia
Orlando Garcia never imagined he’d be a single father, and his friends didn’t think he could handle it. When his[...]
Kevin Kelly
While most young men who play high school football dream about making it to the pros, Kevin Kelly knows that[...]
Isaiah Vargas
Isaiah Vargas entered the world addicted to drugs. As the toxins were purged from his tiny body in the hospital,[...]
Vivian Calhoun is raising a princess. She didn’t plan on it, but it’s working out just fine. She gets to[...]
Jenkins Family
Sharla and Donald Jenkins are raising six children, but less than a year ago, they were parents of two. After[...]
Davion Manuel-McKenney
As Step Up For Students celebrates over 10 years of providing low-income families the opportunity to attend the school of[...]
The Robaina Family
As Step Up For Students celebrates 10 years of providing low-income families the opportunity to attend the school of their[...]
Melody Cherfils
Melody Cherfils never thought she would want to be a doctor. By the eighth grade she had failing grades and[...]
Shamel Donawa
Life lessons hit Shamel Donawa the hardest when she was growing up. But as an adult she can find some[...]
Luis Aponte Jr.
As Step Up For Students celebrates over 10 years of providing low-income families the opportunity to attend the school of[...]
Tyla Cadore
As Step Up For Students celebrates over 10 years of providing low-income families the opportunity to attend the school of[...]
Mercedes Gonzalez
Hector and Maria Gonzalez knew something was wrong midway through their daughter Mercedes’ second year at preschool. Mercedes had always[...]
Danielle Stone
When Danielle Stone crosses the stage next June to collect her diploma at Miami’s Archbishop Curley Notre Dame, she’ll join[...]
Jacob Rogers
Tammy Ducat will never forget the day two years ago when she and her son Jacob Rogers were attending the[...]
Keyante Scott
Of the 11 children Dorothy Stephenson has raised – two hers and the rest relatives - all but one attended[...]
Shawnay Glenn
Shawnay Glenn’s neighborhood school seemed like a good fit as she began her formal education. Prekindergarten through first grade were[...]
Sualba Alejandro
Ten-year-old Sualba Alejandro planted her Size 3 feet on the Faith Christian Academy stage in Orlando and tried to stay[...]