How school choice opens new doors to low income students

This week is National School Choice Week, and, along with thousands of students, I have much to celebrate when it comes to educational choice. I have personal experience in choosing schools that have been the right fit for me. These choices have opened new opportunities to help me reach my dream of one day becoming a successful journalist.

The first time I exercised school choice was in middle school.  My parents and I chose Strive Prep, a charter school, because I was performing above grade level and needed to be challenged academically, which was something my neighborhood school could not offer.

When looking at high schools, I knew that Arrupe Jesuit was the school for me since the day I shadowed an Arrupe student during my 8th grade. The classes were informative and captivating, the teachers were all passionate and charismatic, and the student body was incredibly inclusive and accepting.  My first day at Arrupe Jesuit was phenomenal. Now, I am currently a junior applying for college scholarships and studying for the ACT.

But even though I knew Arrupe Jesuit was the perfect high school for me, I thought I would not attend Arrupe Jesuit due to the financial cost. My parents have always taught me that in order to succeed, one must work hard and focus on her goals and wishes in order to reach what she truly wants. I reminded myself of these lessons, and knew that I could not get discouraged due to the fact of being a low-income student. My father is the only person working in my family and provides for our family of five. Because of this, attending Arrupe Jesuit seemed impossible, but thankfully, because of the financial assistance offered and the support from the admissions counselors, I was able to continue my education and attend the school I desired. Not only does this financial assistance greatly help my parents, but it also helps me to solely focus on my education.

Arrupe Jesuit High School is part of the national Cristo Rey Network which offers a Corporate Work Study Program that helps pay for 50% of a student’s tuition. All students at Arrupe Jesuit High School come from low-income families and are unable to pay full tuition. Because of this, once a week, students from my school work at a corporate or non-profit jobs and perform tasks within the workplace. This program allows high school students like me to develop our skills in the workplace, build new relationships, and continue to grow our skills as we go on to college.  Arrupe Jesuit has given me the opportunity to receive an education that might have been impossible to receive somewhere else. They have given me the space to learn and pursue my educational potential. Arrupe Jesuit High School has opened so many new doors for me.

Currently, I am working at the Independence Institute as my Corporate Work Study job, specifically in the Education Policy Center where I am gaining new skills that will benefit me in my future career. I am doing database work, managing the front desk, writing scripts and appearing in videos, as well as on television. I look forward to becoming the first person in my family to graduate from high school and go on to college to pursue a degree in journalism.

I am also fortunate to be an ACE scholarship recipient. This scholarship helps pay for a portion my tuition at Arrupe Jesuit High School that is not covered by the money I earn through our Work Study program.  I am very thankful for all the financial assistance I receive because it allows me to attend the school of my choice.

Both Arrupe Jesuit High School and ACE Scholarships believe that students from low-income families deserve the opportunity to attend the school of their choice and further their studies without any barriers. ACE Scholarships is a nonprofit organization that raises money from donors in order to award low-income students with K-12 private school tuition assistance. In addition to ACE Scholarships, The Challenge Foundation, Seeds of Hope, Parents Challenge, Universal Education Supporters, and several family foundations help students financially in order to attend a private K-12 school of their choice. These scholarships positively affect the lives of students like me, and gives students the ability to pursue a high-quality private education.  My dream of attending college would not be possible if I had not received tuition assistance and the opportunity to attend a rigorous high-quality charter public middle school and private high school. I will always be grateful to my parents and to those who gave me the opportunity to pursue my dreams.

School choice and the financial assistance available has changed my life. It has given me the ability to pursue a private education that once seemed impossible to obtain. I hope that one day all students are able to succeed and pursue the education of their choice regardless of their financial situation. All students deserve equal opportunity to choose the best educational path that suits their needs, just like I was able to do.

Diana De La Rosa is a student at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver, Colorado and is working at the Independence Institute through the school’s Corporate Work Study Program.


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