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Meet Julian Cruz

For more than two years, the Cruz family chose to live apart.

Eddie Cruz resided in the family’s Lake Mary home, while his wife, Emily, and their son, Julian, shared a tiny apartment on the other side of the state. It was the only way, at the time, for Julian to attend a school that truly addressed his special needs.

“Splitting up the family was unimaginable,” Eddie said. But after they visited Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf in Clearwater, “not sending him there was not an option.”

It worked, for a while. But the bills became too much, Eddie lost his job and the family lost their house. They didn’t want to ask their relatives and friends for more financial help. So they resigned themselves to leaving their beloved Blossom.

Then Eddie and Emily heard about Florida’s new Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts. The program helps pay for tuition and other needs, such as therapies and medical specialists, for families whose children have specific disabilities.

“I thought it was too good to be true,” Eddie said, but he applied anyway and soon received Julian’s acceptance letter. “We all just cried. To know that the burden of constantly scrambling for funds for your child’s education, for his basic needs … the relief of having that is indescribable.

”Since coming to Blossom, Julian has experienced the most transformative years of his life, his parents said.

The school, in classic Montessori tradition, allows students – deaf, hearingimpaired and hearing – to experience what they learn. Children can touch and feel their way through lessons, and collaborate with each other. They are welcome to move around the classroom and talk when they want. Group work is voluntary.

It’s the perfect learning environment for Julian, who has cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus and a severe hearing loss that has impeded his speech.

“I think the one-on-ones with teachers work really well for him,” said Julie Rutenberg, Blossom’s director. “Teachers can sign with him and he can learn at his own pace. With his many appointments [for therapies and such], his teachers can catch him up and cater to his learning needs.”

He also has benefited from having older students help him, Rutenberg said. Now the 13-year-old is a role model for younger classmates.

For Julian’s parents, the school is everything they wanted for him. “He’s smart, he’s happy, he loves dancing and bowling and cycling and basketball, and he wants to be a teacher when he grows up,” Eddie said. “The doctors standing around us when he was born assured us none of that would ever be possible.”

“He’s smart, he’s happy, he loves dancing and bowling and cycling and basketball, and he wants to be a teacher when he grows up,” Eddie said. “The doctors standing around us when he was born assured us none of that would ever be possible.”

Which makes Julian’s achievements all the more sweet.

After he was born three months premature, Julian was saddled with a grim prognosis. He spent the first seven years of his life disproving those opinions, and undergoing a blur of surgeries and multiple therapies. All the while, he persevered – even thrived.

It motivated his parents to do as much as they could to move him forward. And they knew education was key.

They sought public schools with excellent special-needs programs. But the older Julian got, the more he needed. Emily homeschooled him for a while, but Julian needed more socialization. So the family traveled to St. Augustine with plans to enroll Julian in the city’s well-known Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. It turned out the school couldn’t accommodate his needs.

Blossom was their last hope.

“When he got to Blossom, he was able to feed off the other kids,” Eddie said.

Julian still struggles with spelling and reading, like most kids. But he loves learning and his parents love watching him embrace it. Now, when they go out places, Julian sees words and says them aloud.

“We were afraid to ever believe we’d ever see that,” Eddie said.

By donating today, you can help a child succeed.

Per Florida Statute SB2126; “Owner or operator” includes: 
An owner, operator, superintendent, or principal of an eligible private school or a person with equivalent decision making authority over an eligible private school.

An eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization:
May not …provide scholarships to a child of an owner or operator.
Due to new legislative changes Military families can now apply year round. If you need to apply please contact us at 1-877-735-7837.

Determining your household members:

Any member of the armed services who is activated or deployed in support of any military combat operation is counted as a household member.

Determining your household income

Only the service member’s base pay will be counted as income.

Validating Documentation:

Copy of service member’s LES representing the income for the month of application submission or the month prior to application submission showing the dates of deployment

* For the purposes of eligibility “deployment” is defined as a term of six months or longer.
Determining your household income:
  •  Self-employed persons are credited with net income rather than gross income. Net income for self-employment is determined by subtracting business expenses from gross receipts.
  • Gross receipts include the total income from goods sold or services rendered by the business.
  • Deductible business expenses include the cost of goods purchased, rent, utilities, depreciation charges, wages and salaries, paid, and business taxes (not personal, Federal, State, or local income taxes).
  • Net income for self-employed farmers is figured by subtracting the farmer’s operating expenses from the gross receipts.
  •  Gross receipts include the value of all products sold; money received from the rental of farm land, buildings, or equipment to others, and incidental receipts from the sale of items such as wood, sand, or gravel.
  • Operating expenses include cost of feed, fertilizers, seed and other farming supplies, cash wages paid to farmhands, depreciation charges, cash rent, interest on farm mortgages, farm building repairs, and farm taxes (but not local, State, and Federal income taxes).
  • Households with income from wages and self-employment must enter the income from each source separately.
  • If households with income from wages and self-employment have a business lost, wages may not be reduced by the amount of the business loss.
  • If income from self-employment is negative, it should be listed as zero income.

-Eligibility Manual for School Meals, October 2011

Validating Documentation:
  • A copy of the most recent month’s Profit & Loss / Income & Expense statement.
  • If the most recent month’s P&L is not an accurate representation of the household’s self-employment income a copy of the prior year’s 1040, including all applicable schedules can be submitted.
Out-of-home care is defined as:

The placement of a child in licensed and non-licensed settings, arranged and supervised by the department of children and families or contracted service provider, outside the home of the parent.

Determining your household members:

In a household with both children in foster/out-of-home care and those that are not in either of these programs, the children in foster/out-of-home care are counted as members of the household.

Determining your household income:

In a household with children in foster care and those that are not, any PERSONAL income the child in foster care receives must be counted in the household’s income.
In a household with children in foster/out-of-home care and those that are not, payments received from the foster/out-of-home care agency for the care of these children is NOT counted in the household’s income.

 - Eligibility Manual for School Meals, October 2011

Validating Documentation:

Children in foster care
  • A copy of your current Foster Parent License, issued by the Department of Children and Families

  • A copy of the placement papers for the child/ren in foster care

Children in out-of-home care
  • A copy of the placement papers for the child/ren in out-of-home care

  • A copy of the court order, fully executed and signed by the judge, placing the child in your care
If you are unable to provide copies of one of these documents, please complete the application and submit it to SUFS. The processing team may be able to validate the information directly through DCF.
The McKay Scholarship Program

The McKay Scholarship Program has been expanded to include children with disabilities who have an IEP or are on a 504 plan in the public school. The McKay Scholarship is the largest state program in the nation that provides funding for students with disabilities at attend other public or private schools with programs for students with disabilities. Scholarship range from $5200 to $17000.
To participate in the State of Florida McKay Scholarships a parent must submit their letter of intent to the Florida Department of Education. Information about how to submit the letter of intent and the deadlines for submission can be found at the Florida Department of Education’s website:

Gardiner Scholarship Program (PLSA)

In June of 2014 Gov. Scott signed into law an expansion of school choice options for families in Florida. The Gardiner Scholarship Program is designed for students in public, private or home education with one of the following disabilities:
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Spina bifida
  • Williams syndrome
  • Phelan McDermid
  • Intellectual Disability (severe cognitive impairment)
  • Kindergarteners deemed “high risk” due to developmental delays

To learn more about this new program and how to apply, please visit our website at

A student CAN NOT receive the McKay Scholarship, the Gardiner Scholarship and/or the Florida Tax Credit scholarship at the same time. Not all private schools accept these scholarship programs.
A child is considered homeless if s/he is lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act by the local educational agency liaison, or by the director of a homeless shelter. This definition includes:
  • Children and youths you are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
  • Children and youths who are living in emergency or transitional shelters, are abandoned in hospitals, or are awaiting foster care placement;
  • Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designated for or ordinarily used a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
  • Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
  • Migratory children who qualify as homes because the children are living in the circumstances described above.

- Eligibility Manual for School Meals, October 2011

Validating Documentation:

The determination of whether your child meets this definition is made by the school district’s homeless liaison. If your family meets this definition, please submit the following document/s with your application package:
  • A document signed by the local education liaison or the director of a homeless shelter that includes the following: 
    • The name/s of the children
    • The effective date/s of homelessness
Según el Estatuto SB2126 de Florida; “Propietario u operador” incluye: 
Un propietario, operador, superintendente, o director de una escuela privada elegible o una persona con autoridad equivalente para tomar decisiones en una escuela privada elegible.

Una organización de financiamiento escolar sin fines de lucro elegible:
Puede no...proporcionar becas estudiantiles al hijo de un propietario u operador.
Debido a los nuevos cambios legislativos, las familias de militares ahora pueden aplicar durante todo el año. Si necesita aplicar por favor contáctenos al 1-877-735-7837.

Determinando los miembros del hogar:

Cualquier miembro de las fuerzas armadas que ha sido movilizado (deployed) en apoyo a una operación militar de combate es incluido como parte del hogar.

La determinación de los ingresos del Hogar

Sólo el salario de base del miembro del servicio se cuenta como ingreso.

Documentación Válida:

Copia del LES del miembro del servicio que representa el ingreso correspondiente al mes de presentación de la solicitud o en el mes previo a la presentación de la solicitud. Mostrando la fecha de movilización (deployment).

*Para el propósito de elegibilidad “movilización” ( deployment) es aceptada por seis meses o mas.
Determinando los ingresos del hogar:
  • A trabajadores independientes se les contabiliza el INGRESO NETO en vez del ingreso bruto. El ingreso Neto para trabajadores independientes es el resultado de restar los Gastos del negocio del ingreso bruto.
  • El ingreso Bruto es el total de ingresos que haya tenido el negocio por ventas o servicios prestados.
  • Los gastos deducibles de negocio, son todos aquellos gastos que el negocio haya tenido son renta, compras, servicios públicos, salarios, cheques pagados, impuestos pagados por el negocio (impuestos personales no están incluidos).
  • El ingreso Neto para trabajadores independientes como agricultores, es el resultado de restar los gastos de operación del negocio del ingreso bruto.
  • El ingreso bruto incluye todos los ingresos obtenidos por productos vendidos, dinero recibido por la renta de la propiedad, establecimiento o maquinaria a otros y todos los ingresos incidentales como la venta de madera, arena o grava.
  • Gastos de operación incluye costo del suelo, fertilizantes, semillas y otros productos agrícolas, efectivo y cheques pagados por mano de obra, cargos de depreciación, renta en efectivo, intereses sobre la financiación de la propiedad, reparaciones a la propiedad , impuestos pagados sobre la propiedad (sin incluir los impuestos locales, del estado y federales)
  • Hogares con ingresos de salario e ingresos como trabajador independiente deben colocar los ingresos de cada fuente por separado.
  • Si el hogar recibe ingresos por salario y como trabajador independiente teniendo perdidas en el negocio, el salario No puede ser deducido de la perdida del negocio.
  • Si el ingreso del trabajador independiente es negativo, debe ser listado como “cero” ingresos.

-Eligibility Manual for School Meals, October 2011

Documentación Válida:
  • Copia del reporte de perdidas y ganancias mas reciente
  • Si el mes más reciente no es una representación acertada de los ingresos como trabajador independiente, puede enviar una copia del 1040 incluyendo todos los “schedules” de los impuestos relacionados con el negocio.
El Cuidado fuera del hogar es definido como:
  • La colocación de un niño en un ambiente licenciado o no licenciado, organizado y supervisado por el departamento de niños y familias o un proveedor de servicios de contrato, fuera del hogar del padre.

Determinando los miembros de su hogar:
  • En un hogar con dos niños en cuidado foster/cuidado fuera del hogar y los que no se encuentren en cualquiera de estos programas, los niños en cuidado Foster/cuidado fuera del hogar son incluidos como miembros del hogar.

Determinando el ingreso de su hogar:
  • En un hogar con niños Foster y niños no foster, cualquier ingreso PERSONAL que el niño Foster reciba debe ser incluido en el ingreso familiar.
  • En un hogar con niños Foster/cuidado fuera del hogar y niños no Foster/cuidado fuera del hogar, los pagos recibidos de la agencia Foster/cuidado fuera del hogar para el cuidado de los niños NO se debe contar como parte del ingreso familiar.

- Eligibility Manual for School Meals, October 2011

Documentación Válida:
  • Niños en cuidado foster
  • Una copia de su licencia de padre foster actual, emitida por el departamento de niños y familias
  • Una copia de los documentos de colocación para el niño en cuidado foster.

Niños en cuidado fuera del hogar
  • Una copia de los documentos de colocación para el niño en cuidado fuera del hogar
  • Una copia de la orden judicial, totalmente ejecutada y firmada por un juez, colocando al niño al cuidado suyo
  • Si usted no puede proveer uno de estos documentos, por favor complete la Aplicacion y sométala a SUFS. El equipo de proceso tal vez puede validar la información directamente con DCF.
La Beca Mckay

La beca Mckay ha sido ampliada para incluir a niños con discapacidades que tengan un Plan Educativo Individualizado (IEP) o que hagan parte del plan 504 en una escuela pública. La beca McKay es el programa estatal más amplio que provee fondos para que estudiantes con discapacidades puedan asistir a escuelas públicas o privadas que ofrezcan programas especiales para ellos. Las becas van desde $5200 hasta $17000.
Para participar en el programa de la beca McKay los padres deben enviar su carta de interés al departamento de educación en la florida. Más información acerca de cómo enviar la carta de interés y los tiempos límites puede ser encontrada en la página del Departamento de Educación:

El programa de Becas de Gardiner (PLSA)

En junio del 2014 el gobernador Scott firmo en ley la expansión de las opciones de escuela para familias en la Florida. El Nuevo programa de Gardiner (anteriormente conocido como PLSA) está diseñado para estudiantes en escuela pública, privada, o educación en el hogar con unas de las siguientes discapacidades:
  • Autismo
  • parálisis Cerebral
  • síndrome de Down
  • distrofia muscular
  • síndrome de Prader-Will
  • espina bífida
  • síndrome de williams
  • discapacidad intellectual (deterioro cognitivo grave)
  • estudiantes en kindergarten considerados “alto riesgo” debido a retrasos en el desarrollo

Para obtener más información sobre este programa y cómo aplicar, por favor visite nuestra página web.
Un niño es considerado sin hogar cuando no tiene un lugar fijo, regular y adecuado para permanecer durante las noches de acuerdo con la ley McKinney-Vento para Asistencia de personas sin hogar de la agencia local educativa o por parte del director de un refugio. Esta definición incluye:
  • Niños y jóvenes que están compartiendo casa con otras personas debido a la perdida de su vivienda, dificultades económicas o razones similares que ocasionan que ellos vivan en moteles, hoteles, casas móviles o lugares para acampar debido a la falta de vivienda.
  • Niños y jóvenes que están viviendo en albergues temporales o de emergencia, están abandonados o están en espera de un hogar temporal o una familia adoptiva.
  • Niños y jóvenes cuya residencia primaria durante las noches es un lugar publico o privado que no ha sido diseñado para el propósito de dormir y descansar para seres humanos.
  • Niños y jóvenes que están viviendo en carros, parques, espacios públicos, edificios abandonadas, casas por debajo de los estándares aprobados, buses, estaciones de tren o lugares similares y
  • Niños migrantes que viven en lugares similares a los descritos anteriormente.

- Eligibility Manual for School Meals, October 2011

Documentación Válida:

La determinación de si un niño cumple con los requisitos para ser definido como niño sin hogar debe ser hecha por la persona encargada del enlace con el distrito escolar a cargo de las personas sin hogar. Si su familia cumple con esta definición, por favor envíe la siguiente documentación con su paquete de aplicación:
 Un documento firmado por la persona encargada del enlace con el sistema escolar o el director del albergue para personas sin hogar que incluya la siguiente información:
- - Nombre(s) del niño(s) 
- - Fecha en que el niño se quedó sin hogar