She is the first in her family to graduate from high school and the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree. In 2017, she will be the first in her family to earn her graduate degree. Her name: Denisha Merriweather. And because of her hard work, ingenuity, and the opportunities provided to her by school choice programs in her state, she is breaking the cycle of poverty that has hampered her family’s upward mobility for decades.
Denisha grew up in Jacksonville, Florida where at an early age, it was almost a foregone conclusion that she would eventually fail out of school like her brothers and other family members had done so many times before. However, in sixth grade, life changed for Denisha when her grandmother enrolled her in Esprit de Corps Center for Learning, a private school in the Jacksonville area. This move was only possible with the help of one of Florida’s school choice programs and it set Denisha on a new trajectory – one of progress, learning, success and a brighter future.
The first part of Denisha’s story is all too common in South Carolina and around the nation. This year, 1.3 million children will drop out of failing school districts from Darlington County, South Carolina to the inner city schools of Los Angeles County, California. On the other hand, with the rise of school choice programs, the second half of Denisha’s story will become more common too – stories of children and families being lifted out of poverty because they were given the opportunity to learn in A+ schools, not schools dictated by their zip code.
South Carolina is already making progress linking students with the educational opportunities that will most help them succeed. We have introduced you to the Sotero Family, the Wilson Family, the Ellis Family , and the Campbell Family in the past. These are real families seeing real results and real programs making a difference.
But we must not rest until all children have the foundation to reach their God-given potential. We must work to set students on the path to success whatever their background, whatever their goals.