Fifth Third Bank announces continued support of scholarships for low-income students in Florida

Patrick R. Gibbons

Fifth Third Bank’s decision to continue funding the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program comes a week after it said it would halt donations over concerns some schools receiving scholarship funds were discriminating against LGBTQ students.

A week after exiting a scholarship program for economically disadvantaged children over what it cited as anti-LGBTQ policies at a handful of private schools, Fifth Third Bank announced this morning it will continue supporting the program.

“We have looked at the annual performance evaluation mandated by the state of Florida, spoken to policymakers and community leaders in Florida and other constituencies, and held detailed conversations with AAA management about the program. Importantly, we have been assured that students and their families make the decision as to which schools best fit the individual student’s educational needs. The choice is entirely up to them,” the bank announced in a press release.

The bank contributed $5.4 million last year to AAA Scholarship Foundation to fund scholarships for low-income students under the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. The bank reconsidered its position after the program came under fire from LGBTQ advocates following an Orlando Sentinel story that claimed 83 schools had policies that would prohibit LGBTQ students from enrolling.

At least one school had already come forward announcing it no longer discriminated against LGBTQ students.

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program serves 108,570 economically disadvantaged students this year. Of the students, 71 percent are black, Hispanic or mixed race and more than half live in single parent households. The average household income of participating students is just 8 percent above the poverty level. Once students are awarded scholarships, their parents or guardians are free to choose among more than 2,000 approved private schools.

Currently, 1,836 private schools enroll one or more students through the tax credit scholarship program.

Elijah Robinson, an LGBTQ student attending a faith-based Christian school in Jacksonville, spoke at a press conference earlier this week organized by the Florida African American Ministers Alliance.  The 18-year-old told an audience of more than 200 faith leaders, educators and families that he had been bullied over his sexuality at his prior public school. At the press event Elijah said the scholarship saved his life.

Robinson thanked Fifth Third Bank in a press release issued by the ministers alliance this morning.

“All I can say is wow, and thank you,” Elijah wrote. “This means more students like me will be able to find safe schools where they can be who they are and focus on learning.”

Robert Ward, chairman of the ministers alliance and pastor of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, said he was “overjoyed” to see Fifth third Bank return to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program.

Civil rights icon H.K. Matthews, who also appeared at the news conference, said the bank’s decision will restore hope to parents across the state who thought the lifelines to a better life for their children were being cut away.

“We cannot thank them enough,” Matthews said.

Another member of the ministers alliance, Luis Vega, founder of The Way Christian Academy in Tampa, also expressed thanks.

“We are grateful to Fifth Third Bank for putting the interests of thousands of low-income students firs,” Vega said. “The company’s contributions have been a game changer for our most vulnerable children, and it is just amazing to hear that they will resume.”

Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and is one of the fundraisers for the tax-credit scholarship, issued a statement noting the organization is dedicated to providing scholarships to disadvantaged Florida students to attend the school of their choice.

“We believe all children deserve the opportunity to attend a school that best fits their needs – especially our most vulnerable students who are lower-income, victims of bullying, have unique abilities and those who identify as LGBTQ,” Step Up officials said in the statement.

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39 comments

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Rebecca P. February 7, 2020 - 1:42 pm

I would like to thank Fifth Third Bank for continuing to support my child and many others. You are greatly appreciated.

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Ocilia Diaz February 7, 2020 - 2:01 pm

Thank you Fifth Third Bank for continuing support for our Florida children. I applaud you and thank you from the bottom of my heart and every family out there with Step Up for Students Scholarships.

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Jessica Birdwell February 8, 2020 - 1:33 pm

Thank you fifth third bank for all your support in helping kids like mine feel safe going to school. For giving kids who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend a private school. Moving my son from a terrible situation in public school to an amazing experience in a private setting. You are truly a blessing to us.

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Florida's children February 8, 2020 - 8:21 pm

Thank you wouldn’t be able to do it with out your help.

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Anonymous February 7, 2020 - 2:10 pm

Two of my kids are step up scholarship supported very smart students. I would like to thank Fifth Third Bank for the continuous support for our children. You’re making a ll huge difference in these kids lives. Words can’t Express how thankful we’re are as parents. Thank you

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Phyllis Felder February 7, 2020 - 2:17 pm

Thanks for your support

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Marquita February 7, 2020 - 2:37 pm

Thank you & God bless you for your support!

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Dewanda Chaney February 10, 2020 - 7:32 pm

I greatly appreciate the help I receive to give my granddaughter I have custody a chance a a great education n at a private school where she can get more one on one assistance if need be she learns about God n the Bible which we are Christian’s n that’s not allowed so much in public schools . I really love the private school OPCA to where she attends is wonderful n all the staff n teachers are great . Thanks to everyone for their continued support because without it my granddaughter wouldn’t have this blessed opportunity that she has w the step up scholarship . Ty again.

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Maria Iturbe February 7, 2020 - 3:00 pm

Thank you for continuing your support for the Florida Scholarship Program. This program serves so many needy families and enables them to provide their children with an excellent education. Thank you again and God bless you all.

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Irene Heil February 7, 2020 - 3:02 pm

God Bless Fith Third Bank for again supporting Florida children. Thank you so much!!!

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Franciele almenara February 7, 2020 - 3:47 pm

Hi, my name’s Fran Almenara I’m Jose Augusto’s mother. I would like to say thank you so much for Fifth Third Bank continue supporting the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. And help get not just my son but a million of students to get a opportunity to do the difference , to find faith and Achieve the success, not just academic but like person. I really don’t have words to explain how I’m so grateful to be here and to do part of this team. You don’t have idea how much you change us life. God bless all Fifth Third Bank Team.

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Karinis Valenzuela February 7, 2020 - 6:19 pm

Thank to Fifth third for continue support Step Up For Students scholarship, I can’t be more grateful

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DEAN CHARLES February 7, 2020 - 6:59 pm

Thank you to Fifth Third bank for coming back and supporting our children. My daughter and I are most grateful.

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Gina February 7, 2020 - 7:15 pm

I am very grateful to God for the decision that has made you take to continue supporting us, my oldest daughter was bullied and threatened with death for not wanting to be equal to the undisciplined 2 years ago in public school and no longer wanted to go to classes and I was left with tears of concern, now she is a very grateful and happy teenager, she is in the honor roll and is a pride for everyone, at Chosen Generation Christian Academy in the city of Kissimmee, Florida is a blessing for All our family, and all thanks to God and to you we could choose that place. God bless you.

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Gina February 7, 2020 - 7:15 pm

I am very grateful to God for the decision that has made you take to continue supporting us, my oldest daughter was bullied and threatened with death for not wanting to be equal to the undisciplined 2 years ago in public school and no longer wanted to go to classes and I was left with tears of concern, now she is a very grateful and happy teenager, she is in the honor roll and is a pride for everyone, at Chosen Generation Christian Academy in the city of Kissimmee, Florida is a blessing for All our family, and all thanks to God and to you we could choose that place.

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Kathy Tuerk February 7, 2020 - 7:24 pm

Thank you for continuing to support Parental Choice for families and their children’ educational options. So many children are thriving with the help of the Step Up for Students Scholarship.
Fifth Third Bank is making a difference in the lives of so many children.

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Peggy Buetti February 7, 2020 - 8:46 pm

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I am a Grandma Whois tasing 5 grandchildren. One of which entire extended family is or has been in jail or prison. This program you support has and is a life saver for her she is successful and happy. This program has had a positive affect on her and her education. Thank you for the bottom of our hearts. Her three younger Cousins, that I am also are raising, lost their father in November due to drug OD and their Mom is Incarcerated at this time. These three are on Step Up and doing well. Thank you Thank you
Peggy Buetti
Sent from my iPhone

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Zoila Bonilla February 7, 2020 - 9:37 pm

Si pudiera decírselo en inglés lo haría pero selo digo en mi idioma Muchas gracias 😊 por todo el apollo que dan al programa gracias a ustedes mi hija goza de un gran aviente en su escuela gracias a este programa mi hija sonríe y habuelto hacer más competitiva y dedicada a sus estudios hacique muchas gracias ☺️

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Heather Joy Wynsma February 8, 2020 - 10:00 am

Thank you Fifth Third Bank for continuing support families like mine so my daughter has a great opportunity to go to a wonderful school. I applaud you and thank from the bottom of our hearts for the Step Up for Students Scholarships.

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Tameka Todd February 8, 2020 - 10:11 am

Thank you for supporting families like mine to attend wonderful schools. Fifth Third Bank we are very appreciative of the Step Up for Students scholarships. Thank you!

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Dianelys Digat February 8, 2020 - 12:00 pm

Thank you & God bless you for your support!

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Madreselva Daza February 8, 2020 - 12:55 pm

We need more people, persons, compañías, like them like the Fifth Third Bank , thanks a lot for your help, with that my daughter has verter life, and is going and of course, will be great in the futere

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LELA Johnson February 8, 2020 - 3:12 pm

Thanks so much for supporting our students and families. Be blessed!

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Sateria Johnson February 8, 2020 - 3:16 pm

I thank God for amazing and wonderful people at Fifththird I really appreciate the donation may God bless your company

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Carolyn February 8, 2020 - 4:07 pm

Thank you for supporting the children of Florida

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Anna February 8, 2020 - 7:20 pm

My children are thriving! I could not afford to continue their education and happiness without your support. Thank you!

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Evelie Jean francois February 8, 2020 - 9:08 pm

Your help make big difference in many family life. We thank you for your help and more blessings!🙏

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Freddie Hernandez February 9, 2020 - 9:24 am

Bravo, I wanted to thank you With Third Bank for your support of children education. I really don’t understand why would any government official would want to stop funding that has to children education. Thank you again for taking a step up and supporting children education.

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Elodia Mundaca February 9, 2020 - 10:02 am

Thank you for all your help, we are truly blessed to have this opportunity.

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Tiffany Corella February 9, 2020 - 11:36 am

😊 Thank you so very much!

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Elaine Villalobos February 9, 2020 - 12:38 pm

I would like to thank Fifth Third Bank for continuing to support . This scholarship gives my daughter an opportunity I could never provide. For this my daughter and I thank you for this opportunity.

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Edwin Gonzalez February 9, 2020 - 1:07 pm

Thank you FifthThird Bank for supporting the education of my three young boys. Step Up For Students has been a great partner in education for many Florida students and families. We appreciate you.

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Alex R February 9, 2020 - 5:35 pm

Thank you for all the help ! Really appreciate it and our daughter does too

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Anonymous February 10, 2020 - 6:23 pm

Thank you for the support to Step Up scholarship program. I am single mother, and my son used to have a communication problems in VPK and turns emotional upset, after I was able to enroll in this program, his new school help him tremendously. I really appreciate all the help from this program. Change the life of my son and myself.

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Leandro Reyes February 10, 2020 - 9:42 pm

Thank you Fifth Third Bank for you support towards the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, it has made a monumental difference in my child’s education & life, I truly appreciate all your support & efforts towards this programs.

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Roberto Estrada February 12, 2020 - 7:52 pm

thank you very much for your help.

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Isabell February 17, 2020 - 7:21 pm

Thank you fifth third banck i really appreciate all you help I can see the difference in my children’s education I love this program

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Cathy Brumbaugh February 19, 2020 - 10:22 pm

Thank you so much for your continued support because of the scholarship fund my Grandson who is Six and I raise is able to go to a catholic school near our home.

In good health

Cathy Brumbaugh

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Gilberto Farigua February 20, 2020 - 5:50 am

Thank you Fifth Third Bank, for supporting our children, you make a big difference for the education, we love this program we are very blessed, thank you again

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