Hundreds of students from ResponsiveEd attended the National School Choice Rally in Austin on Friday, January 29 to share the impact school choice has had on their lives.
Premier High School of Austin student David Stephens told the 2,000 people at the rally that without school options, he wouldn’t have been able to graduate on time.
“I am thankful for the choice to move schools and take my life into my own hands. If I hadn’t found Premier High School, I would never have been able to make it out of the rut I was in and get back on track to graduate,” said David.
David had struggled in his local school, and by the end of his junior year had enough credits to qualify as a sophomore. Looking for a new environment that would allow him to graduate on time, David found ResponsiveEd’s Premier High School of North Austin. A year and a half later, he will graduate this spring and start college in the fall.
For Shelly Martin, mother of a third grader at Tyler Classical Academy, another ResponsiveEd school, school choice has allowed her to choose the best school for both of her children. While her daughter attends another school, she believes Tyler Classical Academy best fits her son’s unique needs.
“Ben was having a hard time dealing with ADD and dyslexia at his other school, but now he is making A’s and B’s at Tyler Classical Academy. It just confirms that he is in the right place and he is getting what he needs. We have been so pleased with the environment. It is exactly what we were looking for,” said Ms. Martin.
Destiny Amador, a senior from Premier High School of Waco, had never before been to the Texas State Capitol, but she also wanted to let people know what being able to attend a charter school meant to her.
“It was inspirational. Listening to the speakers helped me realize the value of my choice and reminded me that I need to never forget to be grateful even when I don’t want to be at school. Even after I graduate I want to come back to this rally,” said Destiny.
Premier High School of Waco was Destiny’s last chance. Throughout middle school she struggled behaviorally and had been on probation three times. The summer before high school, she decided to take back control of her life and enrolled at Premier. Now, she will graduate a year early and attend the local community college.
“Right now I’m trying to keep my head in the books because June 2nd is my day. It makes me emotional thinking about how far I have come and how many people have told me I wasn’t worth anything. I just needed me to believe in myself. I’m ready to be proud of myself, but I’m also going to miss it here,” she said.
After the rally, ResponsiveEd students had the opportunity to meet with elected officials and tour the capitol. Students from New Braunfels had the opportunity to speak with Senator Donna Campbell and visit her office. Students from North Austin and Pflugerville met with Representative Marsha Farney who encouraged them to come again and meet individually with her so she could write letters of recommendation for them and help them find internships.
“I’ve been to your campus, met with your leadership and have spoken with several of your teachers. You are in a great place. You are already miles ahead of other kids. Use them to your advantage to open up every door,” said Representative Farney.
Taking a selfie with Representative Farney was one of the goals of the day for junior Bonfilia Singh from Premier High School of North Austin. Her college counselor had told her that Representative Farney was an advocate for charter schools and Bonifilia wanted to ask her why some people did not like charters.
“I had heard of her a few times from my college counselor who couldn’t come today and I wanted to get a selfie to show her when I get back,” said Bonfilia.
Amanda List, ResponsiveEd’s Director of Development and Government Relations believes student participation in the rally is an important witness.
“When we come to Austin, it lets our elected officials see the people who are impacted by their policies. When they see and hear from these children, the effect that public school choice has is evident. The more educational options a parent has, the more accessible the right option is,” she said.
For David, while speaking might have been nerve-racking, sharing his story on behalf of his fellow students has encouraged him to consider advocating for people who need a voice.
“It is my hope that by coming here today I can raise awareness for other teens that they too can take their life into their own hands, regardless of the past, and thankfully charter schools like Premier High School can help you with that. I’d love to eventually do something bigger with my life and help speak for other people who need a voice,” said David.
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