inspirED

Meet our scholars, educators, donors, and partners.

Transforming Our Community.
One Scholarship at a Time.

Step Up For Students Scholarships do more than fund education. They change lives. Students thrive in environments that fit their needs. Educators extend their reach to support vulnerable students. Communities grow stronger as educational systems improve.

This is inspireEd. Welcome.

Here, you will get an inside view of that transformation in progress. See what happens when students and their families discover the power of taking control over their academics. Watch as they forge new pathways to a better future. Find inspiration in their determination to achieve their dreams.

These are the stories of Florida students who have renewed hope because they have a school that better fits their needs or educational materials to unlock their potential. They are the stories of a community that has come together to support the belief that educational choice matters. Here, you can be a part of this incredible journey.

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The Garnes Children

The Garnes Children By Sherri Ackerman When her three eldest children were ready to start their formal education, Deidre Christopher-Garnes sent them to their neighborhood district school. It worked well for her daughters, Malkia and Rukiya. But her son, Osakwe, really struggled in the third grade. “He needed more help in math and science,” Christopher-Garnes said. […]
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The Cherry Family

The Cherry Family By Sherri Ackerman When Demetrius Cherry’s commissions plummeted at his cell phone sales job two years ago, his family of six lost their house in Land O’ Lakes and moved in with friends. “We were literally homeless,’’ recalled his wife, Nina Cherry. Within a few months, her husband found another job at […]
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June Welcome and Ryan Tetoff

June Welcome and Ryan Tetoff Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory Hollywood By Sherri Ackerman June Welcome looked forward to sending her son, Ryan Tetoff, to his neighborhood school. By first grade, though, she worried he wasn’t being challenged academically. "Sometimes I would go to school and have lunch with him," Welcome recalled. "I would find him upset. […]
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Savannah Lang

Savannah Lang Rhonda Ford wanted more of a say in her only child’s education. But the divorced mom and self-employed massage therapist thought her options were limited to her neighborhood school. Then one day in 2002, Ford learned about Step Up For Students and the income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. Once the family received approval, […]
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Denisha Merriweather

Denisha Merriweather The daughter of a teenaged mom and high school dropout, Denisha Merriweather thought she was destined for a similar path. Receiving a scholarship from Step Up For Students changed her life. Today, the 24-year-old college graduate is working toward her master’s degree. “I’m just so grateful," Denisha said. “This never would have been […]
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Layla and Jeremiah Cirino

Layla and Jeremiah Cirino Adrienne Cirino’s children started their formal education at their neighborhood school, but soon her son started shying away from kindergarten and her daughter had days where she was ducking desks thrown by angry peers. “I felt scared,” said Layla, who starts seventh grade in August. “Me and my friends would go […]
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Julie and Faith Kleffel

Julie and Faith Kleffel Seven-year-old Faith Kleffel giggles in the background as her tutor, Tammy Forte, talks on the telephone. They’re at Faith’s house in Longwood, near Orlando, where the first-grader with Down syndrome lives with her mom and is homeschooled. “We have a room,’’ explained Forte, a former local school district paraprofessional. “That’s her […]
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Hayden and Cambria Rogers

Hayden Hernandez and Cambria Rogers It didn’t take long for Jenna Rogers to realize her son’s neighborhood school wasn’t working for him. A kindergartner, Hayden wasn’t grasping basic reading and writing skills. And he didn’t like interacting with classmates. “He was really struggling there,’’ Jenna said of the Clearwater school, rated a D at the […]
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Sualba Alejandro

Sualba Alejandro Ten-year-old Sualba Alejandro planted her Size 3 feet on the Faith Christian Academy stage in Orlando and tried to stay calm. In the audience, dozens of parents, children and school administrators were on hand to recognize Step Up For Students' Scholars of Excellence.  The event united Step Up families from throughout Central Florida […]
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Holy Family Catholic School

Holy Family Catholic School (Published in October, 2013) Jacksonville - Any old red carpet simply wouldn’t do. So in the fall of 2012, Holy Family Catholic School rolled out a specially designed one that a family donated after the school received the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Award. It’s emblazoned with the National Blue Ribbon School seal, and it’s the […]
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