Student spotlight

A Gardiner Scholarship transformed Emily Beasley’s life

Emily Beasley was a typical 6-year-old. Precocious yet shy, she was learning to read, loved to dance and enjoyed playing with friends. Everything changed suddenly one night, as she stood in her family’s kitchen. Her parents noticed her staring with a blank expression. Her lips moved, but she wasn’t speaking. She didn’t move and lost control of her bladder. “That was the exact moment when everything changed,” said Doug Beasley, her father. Emily recuperated over summer vacation, but when school started again, there more problems. She had a “rather large” seizure at school one day, her mother said, leading to a brief hospital...

Choosing the right school helped turn tragedy into triumph

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – In the damp, rising heat of a late-morning graduation ceremony in May, with historic Farragut Hall as a backdrop, a hush crept through the crowd of students, relatives, friends, and faculty as they anticipated the next name. Marquis Lambert The roar was pent-up and prolonged, louder than one family could possibly deliver. This was the sound of the entire Admiral Farragut Academy family cheering and tearing up for the senior who 10 months prior had been a celebrated football player one day and was fighting for his life in intensive care the next. As Marquis walked slowly across...

Siblings find safety, inspiration & second family at charter school

Dylan Stanton was routinely bullied at his former school. A boy in his third-grade class hit him, pushed him off benches, stole his money. Once, he rammed Dylan face-first into a fence. At the same school, another student once held a sharp metal file to the throat of his older sister Kaitlyn. Not surprisingly, they did not thrive there. But now, Dylan, 11, and Kaitlyn, 13, are safe and learning on an accelerated path, thanks to Renaissance Charter School at Tradition. It’s a K-8 charter school in Port. St. Lucie, Florida, which they’ve attended for two years. “My friend kept telling me about...

Multiple school choice options are just right for this family

Today is back-to-school day for most school districts in Florida. But for the Plucinski family of Central Florida, it’s back to schools. And not just district schools. Sisters Cora and Zuri will board a school bus to start the day at a district elementary school, while mom Corin Plucinski will drive brothers Zach and Nathan 30 minutes to a private school. They attend with help from one of Florida’s multiple educational choice scholarships. In many parts of the country, this may be unusual. But in Florida, which offers one of the robust arrays of school choice in the country, it’s increasingly...

After school choice helps her, she helps Puerto Rico

Last fall, as she started her senior year in high school, IvonD’liz Chernoff was full of love and gratitude. She was excelling in school. She had overcome years of ridicule. She was headed for college. Tracking a monster hurricane was the last thing on her mind. But there it was. Maria. Tearing through her beloved Puerto Rico. “I couldn’t look away,” IvonD’liz recounted. “Houses with roofs coming off, water coming in from the ocean. It was terrifying … heartbreaking. The worst part was the aftermath, seeing people suffering, kids crying because they don’t have a home or food or because their dolls...

School choice scholarship student soars after quickly hurdling language barrier

MIAMI – The day after Maria Corrales’ tear-soaked graduation ceremony from St. Brendan High School, her mother, Carmen Urquijo, still searched for perspective. “I have no words,” said Urquijo of her oldest daughter’s path from Cuba to Miami, a four-year journey that saw a girl who didn’t speak any English transform into a college-bound honors student. A moment later the words spilled forth. “Proud, grateful, full of joy that she was able to achieve so much,” Carmen said in Spanish. As Maria translated, a slight blush came over her golden skin. Maria’s journey is a testament to perseverance and opportunity. St. Brendan became a second...

Football? Academics? Scholarship student chooses both at Dartmouth

MIAMI – Robert Crockett III is engaged in hand-to-hand combat with his uncooperative red-and-white striped necktie as a photographer sets him up for the next shot. On a bright, breezy spring day at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, teachers and fellow students say hi as they walk past without an ounce of surprise to see the affable senior representing the school. With his close-cropped hair and perfect smile, Robert is a star on campus. Getting accepted to Dartmouth College has only added to the mystique. “We need to buy him a lifetime supply of school sweatshirts to have him be the face of...

School choice scholarship student enjoying the calm after the storm

The lean, angular kid arrived at his new school three years ago, whip-smart and rage-filled. TJ Butler didn’t want to make eye contact, didn’t want to make friends, didn’t want to follow the rules. Instead, he screamed, slammed doors and threw things, including, one time, a desk. For a boy diagnosed with bipolar disorder, whose father was in prison, who grew up with police lights flashing in his front yard, maybe that’s no surprise. But the teachers and administrators at Hillsborough Baptist School weren’t going to give in. Nearly every day for the first year, the principal, Jessica Brockett, talked with...