“How One Child Received A Scholarship To The School Of His Dreams”
February 12, 2015
After struggling to fit in and focus on his education in two of Miami’s public schools, Valentin Mendez felt hopeless. When his mother learned he was also being bullied, that was the last straw. She launched into a search for an educational option that would provide a better experience for her son.
“I was being bullied … because no one respected me because I was Hispanic.” — Valentin
“The last straw was when he had a serious fight at school when they grabbed him and beat him up. And no one from the school said anything to me. Nobody called me.” — Valentin’s mother, Jeannethe Ruiz
Valentin’s mother found La Progresiva Presbyterian School, a small, nearby private school, and learned that many of the students were able to attend the school because of the Step Up scholarship. She applied to the program and Valentin started La Progresiva on Valentine’s Day five years ago this week. At La Progresiva, he blossomed into the successful student she always knew he could be.
“I came to La Progresiva, and it was a miracle. … I came to the school on February 14; the day of love. And I felt loved by everybody in the school.” — Valentin
“There were no more fights, no more dirty looks, no more bullying.” — Valentin’s mother, Jeannethe Ruiz
Valentin represents just one of the more than 1.5 million students experiencing a form of educational choice in Florida. These programs are essential to improving the education experience of kids across Florida.
“The vast majority of these students are on some type of scholarship. And without the scholarship, the students wouldn’t be able to attend a private school.” — La Progresiva’s Principal, Melissa Rego
Recently, some of these programs have come under attack from groups that want to protect the status quo and who are more concerned with the adults in the school system than the generations of students whose futures are truly at stake.
“Without Step Up I wouldn’t be here. Here, I really feel like I have a future. I have a future because I’m learning.” — Valentin
This February, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating a different kind of love — a love of learning. Valentin has successfully gotten back on track in his school work and has fostered a love of learning. His future plans include running a business of his own one day.Support students across America by sharing this video with your friends, family members and networks to help us raise awareness of the enormous benefits of parental choice in education. #edchoice
“Sharp Mind, Noble Heart: The Story of Valentin Mendez” is The James Madison Institute’s (JMI) recently-released short film that deepens the narrative of a high school sophomore from Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood who was recently featured in a powerful Super Bowl 2015 commercial. His story was also captured in JMI’s column in USA TODAY, as well as El Nuevo Herald.