Student Spotlight

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[...]
Chelsea Witter
Like most students, middle school was a tough time for Chelsea Witter. Before starting sixth grade, Chelsea, now 17, and[...]
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[...]