Education choice scholarships lead to right environment which leads to bright futures

Nov 8 2022 • By Roger Mooney


MIAMI – Louise Janvier uses the word “environment” often when talking about education choice and how it can rescue a child.

“Sometimes, when a kid is going to go through things in life, they have to be in the right environment in order to pull through,” she said. “Some of them don’t pull through because they weren’t in the right environment and didn’t have the right support.”

As examples, Louise offers her daughter, Jahiara Jones, and her nephew, Guycelo Robert. Both found themselves surrounded by peers who were leading them away from the values they were taught at home. Both, Louise thought, where in danger of making decisions that could have a negative impact on their future.

They needed to be in the right environment.

Guycelo, Louise and Jahiara.

With the help of a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship made possible by corporate donations to Step Up For Students, Jahiara and Guycelo were able to land in that environment at Greater Miami Academy (GMA), a pre-K through 12 private school not far from their Miami home.

“I’m grateful for it, because without it, I’d probably would not have been at GMA,” Jahiara said. “The school introduced me to many different opportunities and allowed me to develop more as a person.”

Guycelo, who graduated from GMA in 2020, graduated last spring from Miami Dade College as a member of the Dean’s List while carrying a 4.0 GPA. A computer science major, Guycelo is entering his first semester at Florida International University. He plans on a career in coding.

Jahiara graduated from GMA last spring, where she was president of the school’s National Honor Society, senior class treasurer and a member of the school’s campus ministry. She begins classes this month at Oakwood University, a historically Black university in Huntsville, Alabama.

Oakwood is owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which also owns GMA. Jahiara is a Seventh-day Adventist. She felt her religious beliefs weren’t accepted or respected by her classmates when she attended her assigned district school. Louise sensed her daughter was beginning to stray from her faith to better fit in with her friends.

“Peer pressure is something crazy,” Louise said. “In that environment you will change.”

Jahiara wants to major in international business and work with underprivileged children overseas. Guycelo plans on a career in coding.

Louise applied for and received the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, and Jahiara enrolled in GMA at the start of the seventh grade. Being among classmates who shared the same faith made for an easy transition. The smaller class sizes helped create a family atmosphere. Jahiara thrived in that setting.

She was the team manager for the boys basketball team during her six years at GMA and served as a class officer during her high school years. That included a stint as class president as a junior.

Jahiara wants to major in international business at Oakwood. Her goal is to open a business in a foreign country like Zambia or Zimbabwe and work with underprivileged children.

“When I have free time, I look into where in the world really needs the most help and how would I be able to make a difference over there,” she said.

Guycelo’s journey to GMA is a little different than his cousins. Born in the Dominican Republic, he was 15 when he moved to Miami to live with Louise, his aunt. The transition wasn’t smooth as he tried to fit into a new culture, and it wasn’t long before he realized some of his new friends couldn’t be trusted. Guycelo was getting into trouble at school, and Louise feared he was going down a dangerous path toward making serious, life-altering mistakes. What’s more, his grades suffered. Louise thought that was ominous considering he was always an honor student in his native country.

“He’s a good kid,” Louise said. “It’s just that he was trying to find himself, and sometimes during that time you find yourself in the wrong place until you realize that’s not what you want.”

Like his cousin, Guycelo qualified for a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and found himself at GMA for his junior year of high school. And, like Jahiara, he found the school to be a better fit both socially and academically.

“I was able to put the brakes on it,” he said.

Guycelo didn’t earn the grades he earned in the Dominican during his first semester at GMC, but that changed, he said, after a little soul-searching.

“I was thinking I need to do better. I should get my grades up,” he said.

Guycelo said he was also motivated by those who contribute to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

“It lets me know that people out there care about my education, that there are people out there who want me to graduate and do better,” he said.

Louise called Guycelo’s graduation from high school, “The greatest joy.”

“I’m so glad he was in the right place at the right time,” she said, “and the only reason he could do that was because of this program.”

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

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Roger Mooney