school choice

Alberto Cruz and Ramona Ceballo

Editor’s note: Each Saturday in September, redefinED is dipping into the archives to revisit a compelling story written from the perspective of a parent advocate. In today’s post, a single mom explains how a scholarship for students with special needs changed her son’s life, academically and emotionally.

No words can express how thankful we are for the McKay Scholarship.

I have been a single mother of four for a long time. ln the past my son Alberto Cruz struggled with the family’s marital turmoil, as well as with a speech impediment and a form of attention deficit disorder. He went from one school to another, one counselor to another.

He struggled academically and socially in class because he couldn’t find the right programs to fit him, and he failed to receive the emotional support he needed. Plus, he was intimidated by the bigger size of the traditional public schools and the crowds of students.

By age 9, my son hated school. Sometimes he would just sit by himself in a corner, not interacting with any of his peers. He could relate to few teachers.

Worst of all, he said he wanted to end his life. He said almost every day that life didn’t have sense.

For many years, we had a very hard time.

Then one day about nine years ago the director of a private school recommended that I apply for a McKay Scholarship, which is for students with disabilities. Our life has been better since we received the scholarship, which has allowed Alberto to attend The Learning Foundation of Florida, a private school in Royal Palm Beach, since the beginning of middle school.

Now, my son never complains about school. He loves the smaller class sizes, and the small groups of friends he has made. His grades have gone from F’s and D’s before the scholarship to A’s and B’s. He has studied math for college, as well as economics, leadership skills, and English IV. He can learn at his own pace – he likes that there is no hurry to finish class. He’s given a due date to complete a learning module. If he finishes it early he can move on to the next assignment. He also loves the teachers he has had and the personal attention they give him.

I have seen him change, and so have his teachers. He has made progress academically and socially, and his self-esteem is better.

Now a senior in high school, Alberto has the opportunity to go to job training, take driving lessons, receive counseling, and so much more. The McKay Scholarship is helping us — the teachers, and me, the parent — understand my son. It is helping us get Alberto where he needs to be to have a bright future!

Where he once hated school, now Alberto doesn’t want to leave school. He has developed a very strong bond with his teachers and his classmates. It will be hard for him to leave them behind. However, the scholarship is helping him to prepare to move on to a better future. Although he hasn’t settled on a post-graduation path, whatever Alberto decides to do l am confident that the McKay Scholarship will have guided him in the right direction. l am grateful for all the teachers at Learning Foundation and their hard work and dedication, and thankful for the McKay Scholarship.

Ramona Ceballo lives in West Palm Beach.

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