Education choice scholarship gave Taty the 'true experience of what school is supposed to be'

Dec 20 2022 • By Roger Mooney


When she arrived at The Foundation Academy, a private K-12 school in Jacksonville, Tatyanna “Taty” Thibeaux was a shy student who didn’t say much and kept to herself. Some of that, her mother Lucy said, stemmed from a language delay.

“When she was little, she really didn’t speak,” Lucy said. “She really didn’t say her first words until she was 4.”

That issue was corrected with speech therapy. Still, Taty was content to remain in the background. Little by little, the staff, teachers and even the few friends Taty made at TFA helped bring her out of her shell.

“TFA changed my confidence level,” said Taty, a senior in high school who attends TFA on a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, funded by corporate donations to Step Up For Students. “I used to never talk and now half the time I don’t know when to stop talking.”

Taty enrolled at TFA as a fourth-grader during the 2015-16 school year with her older sister, Teshawna, who entered as an eighth-grader.

The girls and their mother had just moved to the east side of Jacksonville. That meant changing schools. Lucy hoped to find a school with a smaller enrollment than the district school they had attended so her daughters could receive more one-on-one attention from teachers.

Jake Farmer, Regional Director of State and Local Government Relations at Walgreens and Step Up For Students Advisory Board member, Teshawana, Taty and Lucy at Step Up's Rising Stars Awards event.

A coworker suggested TFA. Lucy, who works for a company that manages apartment buildings, didn’t think she could afford a private school tuition. The coworker told her about the FTC scholarship. Lucy applied and was accepted.

“I liked the location and the small classrooms,” Lucy said. “If it wasn’t for the scholarship, they definitely wouldn’t be able to go there.”

Teshawna graduated TFA in the spring of 2019 and attends Florida State College at Jacksonville. Taty plans to attend the college in the fall and major in education.

Taty wants to teach trigonometry, the way William Clifford did when she took his class as a sophomore.

“I absolutely adore the subject,” Tatyanna said. “My teacher made it super fun for us to learn, and I aspire to be like him.”

As the years passed, Taty became more and more involved in all aspects of the TFA community. She joined the student council. She became involved in the school plays, whether it was in an acting role or something behind the scenes like selling tickets or keeping things organized backstage.

As a middle schooler, she learned to lean on the high school students for advice. Once she entered high school, she paid that forward by working with the students in the lower grades.

Taty nears the midpoint of her senior year as one of the top students in her graduating class. She is a member of the National Honor Society and a co-president of the school’s student council. She also works at TFA’s snack window, keeping track of inventory and selling treats to her classmates.

“She’s a major cornerstone of the student council,” said Von Jackson, a physical education teacher, high school advisory counselor and coordinator of the student council. “If I had a whole school of Tatyannas, you’d see us on the news for excellence.”

Last spring, Taty was nominated by the staff to receive The Outstanding Student Character Award during Step Up’s annual rising Stars Awards event. The award is for a student who demonstrates outstanding compassion, perseverance, courage, initiative, respect, fairness, integrity, responsibility, honesty, or optimism.

When nominating Taty, Jackson wrote: “(Taty is) a very trustworthy young lady and a student we can count on to be a help to other students and teachers.”

Taty credits TFA not only with getting her out of her shell, but also becoming a more well-rounded person.

“It made me think outside the box more. It made me grow. I’ve learned so much more about myself here,” she said. “I learned that I love to dance. Now it’s one of my passions. I enjoy people’s company. I didn’t like being around people. Now I love it. I value people and friendships and the relationships I have.

“I got the true experience of what school is supposed to be because of how TFA works. It’s built for teamwork and collaboration. They bring everyone together and we build each other up.”

Roger Mooney, manager, communications, can be reached at [email protected].

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Roger Mooney