Editor’s note: Every month, Step Up For Students – which co-hosts this blog – profiles a family that benefits from Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. Here’s the latest:
Vivian Calhoun is raising a princess. She didn’t plan on it, but it’s working out just fine.
She gets to give and receive lots of hugs and kisses from her 6-year-old great-granddaughter, Anastasia, who came into the world to parents who couldn’t take care of her. But with Vivian’s help, the young girl is living much more of a fairy tale than was ever expected.
“She thinks she’s a princess,” Vivian said with a chuckle. “If you ask, she’ll tell you she’s royalty.”
Anastasia’s mother wasn’t able to care for her and her father has never really been a part of her life, Vivian said. And Anastasia’s grandmother, Vivian’s daughter, had problems of her own, so the great-grandmother did the only thing she could: Become Anastasia’s guardian and only true parental figure.
“It was an easy decision,” Vivian said.
Still, Vivian, 68 and a widow after 35 years of marriage, lives on her disability checks. She had to retire from working as a manager for staffing company because back surgery left her with permanent nerve damage. She gets less than $200 monthly from the state to help with Anastasia and does all she can to make the money stretch, she said. But seeing the effects of drugs and violence up close with loved ones, she wanted to ensure that Anastasia had a safe learning environment, and received individualized attention in smaller classrooms in a place that could instill similar values as Vivian was trying to teach at home. She also wanted Anastasia to feel like people at school were an extension of her family.
Vivian yearned to send Anastasia to a local private school that matched these needs, but she didn’t have the financial means until a neighbor told her about Step Up For Students, Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program that helps send low-income Florida students to private K-12 schools or out-of-district public schools.
During the 2011-12 school year, Anastasia started kindergarten at Christ’s Church Academy, formerly called Mandarin Christian School, in Jacksonville and is now 6 and in the first grade.
“Everybody is just so wonderful. It’s been smooth sailing,” Vivian said of the school and Anastasia’s adjustment to school life. “She’s so happy and doing so well.”
Anastasia loves CCA so much, her great grandmother said, that she doesn’t like school vacations and early dismissal days.
“She doesn’t want to leave the school, and that tells me a lot about the school,” Vivian said.