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, Ford enrolled Savannah Lang into
kindergarten at Merritt Island Christian School (MICS) for the 2002-03 school year.
Mother and daughter never looked back. Today, Savannah is a high school graduate starting college in the fall with plans to become a pharmacist.
“Step Up for Students helped my daughter in every way,” Ford said. “I am a single mom and I would never have been able to afford a private school like MICS.”
Ford liked the small class sizes and the Christian environment, and the partnership between teachers and parents.
“I felt like I had more control over her education, and I felt comfortable knowing that her friends and their parents had similar beliefs to mine,” she said. “Savannah did not get lost in the crowd.”
Savannah excelled academically, earning an overall 3.89 GPA for her high school career. Her favorite subject was math because there are many ways to solve a problem. She was part of the National Honor Society and received the Humanitarian Award for most volunteer hours.
Savannah also participated in dual enrollment at MICS, taking high school courses along with college-level ones through a local community college and Palm Beach Atlantic University. During her senior year, she received the Principal’s Scholarship, a two-year award from Eastern Florida State College to help pay for classes there. She starts in the fall and has earned enough credits to receive her Associate in Arts degree in less than two years.
“While I was at MICS, my teachers and my mom taught me to be a hard worker,” Savannah said. “If I put my mind into something, I will achieve it. I have a dream of becoming a pharmacist, and I will achieve it and be very successful.”
She gained a lot of maturity in recent years helping care for her maternal grandmother, who was paralyzed by a stroke and died in July 2014.
“I couldn’t have made it without Savannah’s help,” Ford said.
Her daughter spends most days now working at a pharmacy. But Savannah is not all school and work. When she has some free time, she enjoys horseback riding and volleyball.
After she graduates from Eastern College, Savannah plans to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville. She said she will miss the 26 seniors she graduated with at MICS. Together, they amassed more than $1 million in college scholarships, Principal Jamie Bopp said.
Many of those students also were on the Step Up For Students scholarship, like Savannah.
“Step Up For Students is giving students and their families an opportunity that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Bopp said. “Savannah’s story is a perfect example of that. You doing what you do helps us do what we do. You truly are making a difference.”