Education choice scholarship a boon for this military family
BY ROGER MOONEY
MIRAMAR – William Ivins moved his family to South Florida ahead of his retirement from the United States Marine Corps and enrolled his children at Mother of Our Redeemer Catholic School, hoping they would reap the same rewards as he did from a faith-based education.
But, as William and his wife, Claudia, would soon learn, that was easier said than done.
A lawyer for much of his 20-year career in the Marines, William needed to pass the Florida Bar Exam before he could enter the private sector. It was a long process that left him unemployed for 19 months.
“It was a struggle,” he said. “My retirement income was not enough to pay for the cost of living and tuition for my children.”
William and his wife Claudia faced a few choices: continue with the financial struggle, homeschool their children, send them to their district school, or move out of state. None were appealing to the Ivins, and fortunately, they didn’t have to act on any.
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship made possible by corporate donations to Step Up For Students allows his four children to attend Mother of Our Redeemer, a private K-8 Catholic school near the family’s Miramar home.
“It was a perfect storm of having to retire from the Marines and not really having a job lined up,” William said. “The transition was more difficult than I thought it would be. The income just was not available for us to continue our kids’ education in the way we wanted. Had the scholarship not been there, we would have been forced to move out of state or homeschool them or move them to (their district) school.”
In July 2020, the Ivins moved to South Florida from Jacksonville, N.C., where William had been stationed at Camp Lejeune. William contacted Denise Torres, the registrar and ESE coordinator at Mother of Redeemer, before making the move. She told William the school would hold spaces for his children. She later told him about the education choice scholarships managed by Step Up For Students.
“That was a big relief for him,” Torres said.
At his mother’s urging, William began attending Catholic school in high school.
“That was a life-changer for me,” he said.
He converted to Catholicism and vowed if he ever had children, he would send them to Catholic school for the religious and academic benefits.
Rebekah is in the eighth grade and has been an honor roll student since she stepped on campus three years ago.
“Rebekah likes to be challenged in school, and she is challenged here,” Claudia said.
She received the High Achieving Student Award last April at Step Up’s annual Rising Stars Awards event. Rebekah plans to attend Archbishop McCarthy High School next year.
“She's an amazing, amazing student,” Torres said. “It’s incredible the way she takes care of her brothers. She's very nurturing. Every single teacher has something positive to say about her.”
Rebekah’s brothers, Joseph (fifth grade) and Lucas (second grade), do well academically and are active in Mother of Redeemer’s sports scene, running cross-country and track. Nicholas, the youngest of the Ivins children, is in kindergarten. He was allowed to run with the cross-country team in the fall, which helped build his confidence.
William had been in the Marines for 20 years, eight months. He served as a Judge Advocate and was deployed to Kuwait in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom, to Japan in 2004, and then to Afghanistan in 2012 for Operation Enduring Freedom.
He retired in May 2021 but didn’t find employment until December 2022. The Florida Bar Exam is considered one of the more challenging bar exams in the United States. He took the exam in July 2021 and didn’t learn he passed until September. It took William more than a year before he landed a position with a small law firm in Pembrook Pines.
Claudia, who has a background in finance, works in that department at Mother of Our Redeemer Catholic Church, located next to the school.
“They have really become part of our community,” Principal Ana Casariego said. “The parents are very involved and are big supporters of our school and church.”
In Mother of Our Redeemer Catholic School and Church, Willian and Claudia found the educational and faith setting they wanted for their children.
“It is a small community environment where you know all the teachers and staff by first name,” William said. “My kids have received a wonderful education in an environment where they don’t have to worry about bullying, and they can really strive to grow and do their best academically.
“The scholarship kept us in the state and kept our kids in the school system that we wanted them to be in. It’s been a great blessing to us.”
Roger Mooney, manager, communications, can be reached at [email protected].