Valentin Mendez said his struggles began when he moved into sixth grade at public middle school in Miami.
He was bullied. He couldn’t focus. He began to flounder academically. His mother, Jeannethe Ruiz, said he also struggled with English. His problems got so bad at one point that she pulled him out of class for two weeks, and started casting about for other options.
That’s when she found out about La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Little Havana, and the Florida tax credit scholarship program — a model that policymakers around the country are learning about during a two-day gathering for education advocates in Miami.
Without the scholarship, tuition would likely have been out of reach for their family. Mendez said his mother works at a gas station, his father at a tire shop, putting in long hours that have motivated him to perform in school.
“They want me to have a better life,” he said. “I’m glad that I’m in a school now where I can make them proud.”
Ruiz and Mendez spoke at a press conference at the start of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options’ annual summit, which has drawn lawmakers, including some from deep-blue states, who say they’re intent on expanding educational options back home.
Illinois state Sen. Martin Sandoval called the Florida program, which is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog, “a national model, one that I am going to be studying for the next few days and weeks.”