Maria Torresi fell in love with Gladeview Christian School in Miami when Sophia, her second youngest of five children, attended preschool there. She dreamed of her daughter continuing at the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade private school, but she simply couldn’t afford it.
Maria suddenly found herself a single mother after an abrupt separation with her husband and eventual divorce. Formerly a stay-at-home mom, she had to find a job quickly to provide for her family. With so many changes in their family life, a stable and supportive school environment became more important than ever – especially for her younger children.
While attending a festival at the school, Maria confided in a parent that she couldn’t afford to send Sophia there once she reached kindergarten. The parent told her about the Step Up For Students income-based scholarship. Maria thought it sounded too good to be true.
“I asked the school and they said yes, it’s a legitimate program. By that time she (Sophia) was ready for kindergarten. I went online and applied and she got it,” she said “She’s now in first grade. She wants to stay there forever.”
Even before her divorce, several factors were already in play in Maria’s desire to keep Sophia at Gladeview.
Through her older children, who are now grown, Maria witnessed how different kinds of schools can help or hinder a child’s development. Years ago, when one of her now grown daughters was in school, teachers from the neighborhood middle school didn’t tell her until the end of the school year that her daughter, who has ADHD, was doing so poorly she had to go to summer school. After that, Maria refinanced her house so that daughter could go to private school. When it came time for her son, Matthew Allen-Garcia, to go to high school, she chose to send him to Doral Academy Preparatory School, a charter school in Miami, because the public high schools were too overcrowded for her comfort level. He is now a senior and applying to college.
In her own experience, Maria was assaulted as a teen while attending her neighborhood high school. As a result, despite being in the honors program, she dropped out of school and got her GED. This incident cemented safety as a top priority for her. When she saw the swift action in hiring security guards that Gladeview administrators took after the Sandy Hook tragedy, it furthered Maria’s comfort and confidence in them.
But the school also has so much more to offer, she said. Gladeview has a very welcoming and family environment unlike anything she had experienced before.
“They welcome your involvement,” Maria said. “There’s just more open communication at the private school. They just want that. They’re more invested in my daughter’s (Sophia’s) life now, much more so than my older children’s teachers were.”
First-grade language arts teacher Clarisa Reyes said that’s exactly the environment they want as teachers and for their students.
“Sophia is a very happy, loving enthusiastic child. She’s very sweet, very positive and very smart,” she said. “She loves learning. She’s always paying attention to things and she always questions things.”
In fact, she said, Sophia is already part of the honors program.
“She’s the ideal student,” Reyes said.
Of course, Maria is just as thrilled with Sophia’s academic performance.
“She loves going to school. We don’t have a problem with that,” she said. “She was in a spelling bee. She’s just very happy.”
When her younger daughter Olivia, 3, reaches kindergarten age, Maria plans to send her to Gladeview, too.
“The environment is amazing,” she said. “The scholarship has been a great blessing for my daughter.”
About Gladeview Christian School, Miami
Gladeview Christian School opened its doors in 1968 as a ministry of the Gladeview Baptist Church, blending academic studies and Biblical principles. The school caters to prekindergarten through eighth-grade students. It boasts class sizes of about 14 to 22 students, and foreign language classes – French and Spanish – begin daily in the first grade. The school also offers cheerleading, sports, computer classes and a full performing arts program with dance, violin, guitar and more. The school has 198 kindergarten through eighth-grade students enrolled for the 2014-15 school year with 57 of which are Step Up For Students scholars. The school uses the Stanford 10 to test annual academic performance and is accredited by the Florida Association of Christian Colleges & Schools. For the 2014-15 school year, tuition ranges from $5,200 to $6,780.
Share this story