A parent’s story: Louisiana scholarship program paved path to my son’s ‘best fit’ school

St. Mary’s School in Natchitoches, Louisiana, one of 420 private schools in the state serving nearly 130,000 students, is dedicated to forming the whole child to know, love and live the Catholic faith.
Gaynell Brady

My son Benjamin, the youngest of my four children, has always been mature for his age. He loved learning and creating for as long as I can remember. But I worried when it was time for him to start school that it would be hate at first sight.

My older children went to private schools. I struggled with tuition until I learned about Louisiana’s school choice scholarships, which made things much easier on our family. Louisiana’s ACE Scholarship program was launched in 2000 to provide low-income parents like me with extended school choices through partial scholarships to K-12private schools. The program was expanded in 2012 to help even more students receive the opportunity.

I knew that Benjamin needed the environment of a close-knit private school, so I was grateful I already knew about our state’s programs so I could find the best fit for him regardless of how much I could afford to spend.

The right choice for Benjamin turned out to be St. Mary’s. Benjamin’s teachers were so loving and nurturing that he had no problem settling down. Fast forward to today and he’s making straight A’s. He’s disciplined about doing his homework. His favorite class is Religion, and I think that’s what keeps him grounded. I’m not sure he would have thrived in any other environment.

And thank God for that scholarship! There’s no way I could have afforded to send Benjamin to St. Mary’s without it.

I didn’t have the best role models when it came to education. My grandparents worked on a plantation and didn’t go to school. My father joined them, so he only received a partial high school education. My mother went back to high school as an adult, and we graduated in the same year.

I know my children would not be as content as they are if they were attending the schools I attended. Those schools did not instill in me a thirst for knowledge. I was smart, but like Benjamin, I was bored. Because of my parents’ financial situation, I couldn’t transfer to a school that would serve me better. I think that limited me a bit.

Still, my brother and I went on to become college graduates. My children are aware that that’s the expectation in our family. The schools they’ve been able to attend because of Louisiana’s scholarship programs have given them a head start on that path.

The third state in the nation to benefit from ACE’s national efforts, Louisiana now boasts more than 2,000 students on the program at 200 partner private schools. What’s more, ACE qualifies for the Louisiana Tuition Donation Credit program. Contributors receive a 95% income tax credit as well as a federal tax deduction on the non-credit portion of their gift, enabling taxpayers to earn a tax benefit of up to 97%.

I’m happy that Louisiana’s scholarship programs are such a win-win for donors as well as for the families and their children the assist.