The best $18 I ever spent was on a school scholarship application.
As a first-generation college graduate, I know that a good education means a lifetime of opportunity. Giving my own children the education they deserve has required taking chances, and I want to encourage other parents to do the same this School Choice Week (January 23-29).
My son Grant started education in his public school. I volunteered in his first-grade classroom, wanting to be active in his education, but finding myself extremely unhappy with what I saw. The teacher was overwhelmed, with too many students to manage or educate well. I knew my son needed a better option, one that would encourage him not to settle. I tried to get him into a magnet program where he’d be more challenged, but the closest we ever got to that opportunity was a waitlist.
When a friend told me of a nearby private school, I thought it was out of our financial reach. But we desperately needed another school choice, so I took a chance and applied. Even with a bit of financial assistance from the school, attending was nearly unmanageable. I found myself cutting coupons, using the Crock-Pot like never before, and skipping my power bill when I couldn’t pay.
Anything worth having — like a good education — you must be willing to make sacrifices for. What made the stress worth it was that my son was finally receiving a quality education, with teachers, curriculum, and extracurriculars truly challenging him to live up to his potential. Unfortunately, when it came time for my daughter Evelyn to enter first grade, I knew there was no way to make ends meet and give her the same opportunity.
It was then that I received a providential call about private school scholarships through the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund. At the time, I had $20 left, with pay day three days away. The fee for the scholarship application cost $18 and I took the chance, hoping it would support us in giving Evelyn a good school fit too. I’ll never regret it.
Parents, don’t allow fear or pride to stop you from filling out a scholarship application, or from asking for financial help when it comes to your children’s education. You might be getting by in your current school setting, but could it be better?
Today, thanks to the scholarship and taking a chance, my children are both thriving at Montgomery Catholic. My son is a junior, takes AP classes, and participates in indoor and outdoor track and field, as well as e-sports. Evelyn, a 7th grader, runs cross-country and track. One of our school’s incredible initiatives is free tutoring after hours, where my kids can get extra help from dedicated teachers when they’re struggling with concepts.
Honestly, I envy the caliber of education my children are receiving. Years ago, as a hardworking high schooler, I was accepted to Auburn University, only to realize how little my local school had prepared me for the rigors of college. As a first-generation college student, my family could offer little advice. Determined to graduate, I worked a minimum wage job, making just over $5 an hour and putting that toward a $10 an hour math tutor.
Thanks to school choice, my children won’t have to experience that struggle; they are being prepared for whatever future they might choose. To me, this is what school choice means: being able to give my children a place where they can excel academically, be taught by supportive teachers and staff, and become the best version of themselves. And that’s a huge advantage for their future.
Dalphine Wilson is a mom of two in Montgomery
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Montgomery mom: Take a chance for your child's education