Tag Archives forscholarship

Student found the right kind of peer pressure with scholarship


Heidi Gonzalez saw the warning signs. Her daughter Samantha Delgado had just started sixth grade at her neighborhood middle school in Miami, and already she was going down the wrong path.

Bad grades. Bad behavior. Falling in with the wrong crowd.

As a 10th grade teacher who worked with at-risk students at a public high school, Gonzalez knew veering off course in middle school could lead to much worse later. She spent lunch breaks researching private schools near their home, determined to find a better environment. A Florida Tax Credit Scholarship through Step Up For Students made it possible for her to consider them.

Samantha Delgado is now a senior at Miami Christian School, where she has gone since the seventh grade.

Samantha Delgado is now a senior at Miami Christian School, where she has gone since the seventh grade.

“I’m very lucky,” Gonzalez said, “to have caught it on time.”

It wasn’t an easy choice. Gonzalez knew she might hear whispers at work. She had spent years working in public schools. But this was her sweet little Sammy.

“I’m a parent first and a teacher second,” Gonzalez said. “She’s my daughter and I’m going to do whatever is best for her despite wherever I’m working. It doesn’t matter what other people say, what the community says, what society says. At the end of the day you’re bringing that kid home with you. It’s your problem to solve.”

Sammy was Gonzalez’s “little angel” until middle school. Report cards with D’s and F’s and poor conduct prompted constant bickering. Samantha’s piercing brown eyes would roll with indifference every time her mom tried to give her guidance.

“It didn’t look like she cared about her future,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez started paying closer attention to Samantha’s new friends and the area around the school, which was tucked between an expressway and a busy six-lane street. She drove through the neighborhood after morning drop-off and saw children skipping school and middle-schoolers smoking.

Samantha said she was just trying to fit in. She often walked across the street with her friends to a bakery, where they’d eat, hang out, and return to school when they felt like it.

“I was new,” she said, “and new kids tend to do whatever everyone is doing.”

Like her friends, Samantha was struggling academically, too. Longtime difficulties with math landed her in a remedial class, but she couldn’t stand doing classwork on a computer every day.

“I didn’t like that class,” she said, “so I didn’t really bother going.”

Near the end of the school year, Gonzalez broke the news to Samantha – she was transferring to Miami Christian School for seventh grade.

A short drive away, the campus was wide open with big, green spaces for sports, and gardens for vegetables and butterflies. It was tranquil and clean.

Samantha was especially surprised by the class sizes. There were about half as many students as she was used to, and the teachers made a point of working with each.

The students were different, too.

Samantha quickly became friends with three girls who made a strong impression on her with their behavior and work ethic. They weren’t skipping classes.

“I thought that was weird, but then I thought maybe I should start staying in class more, because they’re doing it,” she said. “And so I did.”

“When I first saw everyone in the school getting really, really good grades it made me feel like I’ve got to push myself and get better. If everyone there is getting good grades, what am I doing slacking off?”

Slowly, Samantha gained confidence in the classroom. She improved in her first couple of years, then took a dramatic step  in 10th grade. She earned all A’s and B’s and made honor roll for the first time in her life. Gonzalez was so emotional, she had the award framed.

Now in 12th grade, she’s planning for college, with an interest in becoming a physical therapist.

Her horizon is broadening in other ways. Miami Christian encourages its students to volunteer in the community, and Samantha has contributed by preparing meals for needy children and joining students with disabilities on bicycle rides.

She’s also discovered hidden talents.

Before Miami Christian, Samantha had never played on a team and didn’t like watching sports. But because the school is so small, she was needed on all teams – soccer, volleyball, softball, and basketball.

In time, she discovered a knack for softball and, last year, was named the team’s most valuable player. Now she practices or plays nearly every day during the season and works by herself in the offseason.

“It’s about being a well-rounded individual, and sports can be a big part of that,” said high school principal Woody Gentry. “I think it’s helped her. You see the growth, you see her developing, you see her confidence. … We’re just happy to have been part of it.”

Samantha didn’t like switching to private school at first. She cried often about missing her old friends. But it wasn’t long before she came to agree with her mom’s decision.

“I matured 100 percent,” she said.

For Samantha, the change brought the bonus of a more peaceful and loving relationship with her mom.

For mom, it’s everything to get her sweet Sammy back.

About Miami Christian School

Established in 1954, the non-denominational school is accredited by SACS (Southern Association of Schools and Colleges) and ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International). For 2017-18, there are 270 Pre-K through 12 students, including 17 on Step Up’s Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. In the past five years, Miami Christian has graduated 222 students who were accepted to more than 100 different national and international universities and were offered $8.9 million in four-year scholarships. The school offers honors, Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment classes. High school students take the PSAT every fall and the Terranova test every spring. Annual tuition is $7,225 for kindergarten, $8,325 for grades 1-5, $8,950 for grades 6-8, and $9,8250 for grades 9-12.

Jeff Barlis can be reached at 

Let the voting begin: Step Up nominated for best Tampa Bay area nonprofit


Step Up For Students is excited to announce that we’ve been nominated as ‘Best Local NonProfit’ in the Tampa Bay area in Creative Loafing’s annual Best of the Bay contest.

With an office in St. Petersburg and another in Jacksonville, Step Up For Students has served more than 80,000 students throughout the state during the 2015-16 school year with its two scholarship programs. We expect the number to rise for the 2016-17 school year. botb2016

Readers of the free alternative weekly newspaper submitted the nominations and even came up with the categories to be judged. That means YOU chose us! THANK YOU for that! We’re thrilled to be nominated and now we’re asking for you and your friends to vote for us! Voting is open through Aug. 16.

It’s easy. Please visit this link  and scroll down to ‘Best Local Nonprofit’. Use the drop-down menu to find and select Step Up For Students.

Categories include best local band, best local sports team, best all-around restaurant and dozens more.

Winners will be announced at Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay Awards Party at The Mahaffey Theater in Tampa on Sept. 28. They will also be mentioned in the annual Best Of The Bay issue released in print and online Sept. 29.

For more information, please click here.

We hope to hear our name called Sept. 28, so the spotlight shines on all of the amazing students who benefit from our scholarships! #CLBOTB

Introducing Step Up For Students new website

Step Up For Students is excited to present a new and improved website at the same Step Up address: We’ve made the site more visual, simpler and friendlier to use in general, so you can quickly find the information you need.
Let’s take a quick tour.
This is what you will see when you visit the Step Up For Students website:
You’ll notice on the top, an easy-to-find parent login, and to the far right of it, you’ll find links to our social media channels — Facebook,  Twitter — and  this blog (if you haven’t liked or followed us already, please do).
Of course, we still have drop-down menus, but have organized them by audience and specific topics:  “About Us”, “For Parents”, “For Schools & Providers”, “For Donors”, “Our Stories”, “Newsroom” and “Contact Us.”
On the “For Parents” page, you can select from either scholarship option to learn more.
On the homepage, whether you’re a parent, a potential donor, or an educator, you can quickly find what you need with our bigger icons and larger headers:
To find news and information on each of our scholarship programs, it’s just as easy.
And no matter which page you land on, you will always see this to guide you toward other resources and help:
And of course, the site is in Spanish, too. With a simple click on the far right of the top of the homepage, you can switch from English to Spanish:
Please stop by our new site at and take a look around. And please let us know what you think at