As Step Up For Students celebrates over 10 years of providing low-income families the opportunity to attend the school of their choice, we catch up with scholars who were awarded scholarships that first year.
It was 2001, and Joy Worrell-Paul was running out of options to help her children in school. Her daughter Tyla Cadore, 9, was struggling with reading and her literacy skills were continuing to dwindle. Her son Ethan Cadore, 12, was outright failing math.
Joy, a mother very involved in her children’s education, knew that Tyla and Ethan needed a change or their struggles would only worsen.
Midway through the new 2001-2002 school year, Joy had had enough. Tyla, a second-grader, wasn’t reading any better than she had the previous school year and Ethan continued to do poorly as well. She explored sending Tyla and Ethan to Seacoast Christian Academy, a private school in Jacksonville that she felt could meet the learning needs of both of her children. However, the single mother quickly realized that her budget couldn’t absorb the cost.
But after hearing about Step Up For Students through a friend, Joy thought she might have a chance to make a difference for her children. Within minutes of talking with her friend, Joy was on the phone with Seacoast administrators and applying for the scholarship.
When school resumed in January 2002 following the end of winter break, Tyla and Ethan were Seacoast students. They were among the first group of students to be awarded the scholarship in its inaugural year.
After a few months, Joy could see improvement. Tyla’s teachers took her aside and worked with her one-on-one until she could read well on her grade level. Ethan, meanwhile, was grasping math concepts with ease. Joy’s bet that Seacoast’s increased personal assistance from teachers would boost Tyla and Ethan’s academic performance paid off.
The scholarship was key to Tyla and Ethan’s success, Joy said.
“It was a big help,” she said.
The Cadores “were incredible students,” said Elton Brooke, principal of Seacoast Christian Academy.
“They had to work hard but they did excellently,” he said.
In 2007, Ethan graduated in the top half of his senior class. He’s now a Marine.
Tyla attended Seacoast until 2008, when she entered eighth grade. That year, Joy remarried and the family no longer met the scholarship program’s income requirements. Tyla was homeschooled for a year and then attended her neighborhood high school as a freshman. But after a lackluster school year where she breezed through assignments, she transferred to a virtual school when she entered 10th grade.
Today, Tyla is a senior who counts math and English among her favorite subjects and regularly earns As and Bs. The future teacher, who carries a 3.5 GPA, said she’s looking forward to graduation and reviewing colleges.
Tyla said her favorite memories of Seacoast are its inviting environment and the teachers and fellow students who felt like family.
That experience would not have been possible without Step Up For Students, she said.
“(The scholarship) changed things for the better,” she said. “Knowing that I had a scholarship, I wanted to get good grades.”
About Seacoast Christian Academy
Seacoast Christian Academy began in 1991 as a small home school program housed by a local church. Over the years, the school’s rapid growth forced operators to move to another location in 1996 and open Seacoast Christian Preschool in 1998. In 2011, the school’s K-5 grades became a charter school, Seacoast Charter Academy.
Today, Seacoast Christian Academy is a 6-12 school that enrolls more than 430 students. Annual tuition is $6,000 for grade 6, $6,200 for grade 7, $6,400 for grade 8 and $6,600 for grades 9-12. Student progress is measured annually using the Terra Nova standardized test. Seacoast Christian Academy is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International.