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What It Takes for a Student to Succeed

• ExcelinEd

De’Antay Curry was so disillusioned with his Alabama public school that he talked of dropping out. His foster mother, Shirley Keyes, then took advantage of a tax-credit scholarship program to send him to a private school. Instead of dropping out, De’Antay is thriving and deciding on colleges. The Alabama Education Association, the state’s teachers union, challenged the constitutionality of the program, called the Alabama Accountability Act. The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the scholarships earlier this month. Read this guest blog post by Ms. Keyes about the value of this program.

What does it take for a student to succeed?

As parents, we want the best for our children. At home, we find ways to encourage and support them to reach their God-given potential. It is just as crucial for kids to receive encouragement and high expectations where they spend most of their time: the classroom.

I want my son De’Antay to be in a school that believes in him just as much as I do—one that does everything it can to help him pursue his dreams and achieve his potential. And thanks to the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship, De’Antay was able to find the encouragement and support that he so desperately needed.

At his previous schools, De’Antay continuously struggled to break through the barrier of low expectations and his schools’ “just get by” approach to education. He was frustrated because he couldn’t understand the material or get the extra help he needed from his teachers. At these public schools, teachers simply couldn’t give students the individualized attention they needed. I was concerned by De’Antay’s poor progress reports, but was hard pressed to get an answer whenever I called his teachers.

Frustration quickly grew into hopelessness. De’Antay even told me he wanted to drop out of school.

And then we realized this was normal. His teachers told us that De’Antay was doing better than most, that we should be happy he was a “D” student. When I heard this, I knew I had to get him out of that school as soon as possible.

The problem was we had very limited options. As a single foster parent, I do not have the means to pay for a private school nor the ability to move to a different neighborhood with better public schools. That is when Alabama MENTOR told me about the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship and Gunn Christian Academy.

We applied immediately for the scholarship, and I was overjoyed when De’Antay’s application was accepted.

Since he started attending Gunn Christian Academy, De’Antay is a brand new person. He was a bit nervous at first, but he has been motivated by the support and encouragement he receives from his teachers. He tells me that his teachers take the time to teach the material in a way that he can understand, and they don’t give up until he gets it.

When De’Antay transferred to Gunn, we discovered he was behind on credits. This means his previous school was promoting him even though he wasn’t ready to move on to the next level. Once a “D” student, De’Antay is now a junior in high school earning As, Bs and Cs, and he is playing for the school’s basketball and football teams.

Instead of frustration and disappointment, De’Antay is now filled with pride of what he has achieved and hope for his future. He wants to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering, and he has set his sights on UCLA, Duke University or Tuskegee University.

It is incomprehensible to me that anyone would oppose giving students like De’Antay the opportunity to find the learning environment in which they can excel. In education, one size does not fit all. If a school cannot meet a student’s needs, that student deserves the chance to choose one that does.

I cannot imagine where De’Antay would be without this choice. The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship gave my son the opportunity to see value in himself and to strive to reach his potential. He was capable all along; he just needed his school and teachers to believe in him, too. That is what it takes for a student to succeed.

Shirley Keyes lives in Bessemer, Alabama with her 17-year-old foster son, De’Antay. De’Antay uses a tax-credit scholarship from the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund to attend Gunn Christian Academy in Bessemer.

De'antay Curry

Watch De’Antay speak at the 2015 National School Choice Week rally in Montgomery, Alabama.

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