In a three-year span, Mariel Ubfal’s world fell apart. Her husband died. She moved her family to the United States. Then she watched as her children struggled in school.
The move from Argentina to America came in 2008, three years after Mariel’s husband died from cancer. At the time, all four of her children were under the age of 10. “Leaving was not easy,” Mariel said. “But I knew this was the right decision for my kids.”
Starting over wasn’t easy, either.
Being unemployed and underemployed for the first few years, Mariel struggled to pay bills and, at times, even to feed her kids. As if that wasn’t enough, her children began having behavioral and academic issues in their neighborhood schools – something that never happened in Argentina.
Troubles first hit her three eldest – Matias, Agustin, and Barbara Mohadeb.
Matias hated school because he struggled learning a new language. In eighth grade, he earned D’s and F’s and routinely got into fights. Agustin was held back in sixth grade for poor academics. Barbara failed fifth grade because she did not speak the language.
Mariel felt desperate. She called the school and tried setting up meetings with her sons’ teachers, but that proved difficult.
“Maybe it was the language barrier, I’m not sure, but I wasn’t able to help my kids succeed at their local school,” she said.
Mariel searched for a better option and found a school that felt like home, but couldn’t afford the tuition. Then a friend told her about the Florida tax credit scholarships. (Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps provide the scholarships to more than 100,000 low-income and working-lcass students.)
It was “the answer to my prayers,” she said.
In 2010, Matias, then 15, and Agustin, then 13, began ninth and seventh grade respectively at Hebrew Academy.
The school is smaller and more family-oriented than their previous schools, Mariel said, and its teachers are more accessible to parents. The curriculum is rigorous and the school has high expectation for student academics and parental involvement, she said.
Progress didn’t happen immediately. Matias’s behavior was terrible in the beginning. At one point, he refused to go to his new school, and Mariel couldn’t get him out of bed. Continue Reading →