A parent describes her school choice journey

Editor’s note: Faith Manuel has had three children use the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program through Step Up For Students (which hosts this blog), and has spoken and written throughout the state about school choice. In this post, a condensed version of one that first appeared on Stepping Beyond the Scholarship, she describes her family’s educational journey, which involved a mix of public and private schools.

Blessed! I can find no other word that adequately describes my family. My oldest son, Davion, is a college junior pursing his passion for education at the University of North Florida. My middle man, Nicholas, is a high school senior who is a starting member of a nationally ranked high school football team. He is also an accomplished singer who has received some national ranking for his vocal ability. My baby girl, Faith De’Yanah, is a budding high school freshman who is a wonderful student and athlete. I am working in a job that I love which seems tailor-suited for my strengths and passion for helping others. We are (so) blessed.

Faith's family journey
From left to right, Davion Manuel-McKenney, Faith Manuel, Faith De’Yanah McKenney and Nicholas McKenney.

Our family proves that the start of a journey doesn’t dictate how far you travel. Geographically, it’s only been about 250 miles; but in growth as a family; we have traveled a mighty long way. My journey started in Hollywood, Fla. When my children and I relocated to Volusia County, I was a young divorced mother and I was in school. We lived in public housing, the only place we could afford with my part-time employment.

Davion was entering into sixth grade when I was blessed to discover Step Up For Students. The neighborhood we lived in was plagued with drugs and violence. The school Davion was zoned for was plagued with the same. I was working part time and attending school full time and could not afford to move to a better school zone. I decided to inquire about private school for Davion to protect him from going down the wrong road. The school I visited actually informed me of the Step Up program. This program afforded me the opportunity to enroll all three of my children in private school.

When Faith D. entered kindergarten, I was able to place the children at Calvary Christian Academy (CCA) in Ormond Beach. Calvary was perfect for me because it was an extension of my church, also because it was K-12 and at the time, I had a kindergartener, third-grader, and seventh-grader. I loved that I could make one stop for drop off and pick up. I also loved that I could stop by and visit all my children in the same place. I remember many times coming for lunch with Faith and staying for lunch with Nicholas and Davion. Middle-schoolers don’t always think it’s cool to have lunch with mommy, however, mommy thought it was amazing!

Faith and Davion in the earlier years.

Davion graduated from Calvary in 2012 and went on to college where he remains. He has been on the Dean’s list, President’s list, been awarded various scholarships for his academic excellence. He benefited from student employment where he was named Tutor of the Year two years in a row. Today, Davion continues to work in the math lab of Florida State College at Jacksonvillewhile attending the University of North Florida.

Nicholas has had a mix of public and private education. He attended CCA from third to seventh grade. He has attended public school from eighth grade and remains in public school today and will graduate from Mainland High School. Nicholas has been very involved in school in sports, and singing. I credit his desire to participate with his foundation at Calvary. At Calvary, it was small enough that he was able to participate in almost everything. When he transitioned to public school, he has kept that model and I believe it has worked very well for him to keep him from any negative influences at school.  Faith D. tried public school in sixth grade and it proved too big for her. She was most comfortable in the family learning environment which she enjoyed at CCA. She returned to private school to finish out middle school.

I value the flexibility afforded to me to be able to help my children find a learning environment that worked best for them at the different stages of their journey. My dream for my children was to be well educated, great citizens, and wonderful people and I get to see my dream as a reality every time I see my kids. We are truly blessed.


  1. I wanted to say how inspired I am by your strength and courage. I was also single parent for many years and have 5 children to raise. My story is very similar to yours. If it wasn’t for step up for students, my children would not have the opportunity to obtain a Cristian education. Having this blessing has allowed for a major change in their lives and future. I am beyond blessed to have such wonderful children and the comfort of knowing that their futures are on a right path with God. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. That’s is just wonderful. Thank you for sharing your story. I pray the lord continue to bless you and your children. #blessed

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, it blessed me so much to see where you all came from and where you are now. What a blessing and privilege to have help from Step Up for Students! This program is helping so many and I’m glad you had a choice and were able to put your kids at Calcary.
    My prayer is that you keep on going and The Lord continue to bless you. I also pray that many more will have the opportunity to choose their children’s school and have the help available through Step Up.