Loretta Morgan encourages Alabama legislators to keep the power of school choice in parents’ hands

Loretta Morgan is encouraging Alabama’s legislators to support the Alabama Accountability Act. She has three children who are benefitting from the Accountability Act through the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, and her oldest, 11, has been in the program for five years. Her eight-year-old and seven-year-old have been in the Scholarship for Kids program for three years combined.

“From my experience I went to public schools all my life until the eleventh and twelfth grade years and I must say there’s a big difference in the education that you receive,” said Loretta Morgan. “I made fair grades, but my grades could’ve been better had I applied myself. When I started attending private school in the eleventh grade, my grades improved significantly and I began thinking about attending college.”

Loretta credits her mom for making the right decision to move her to a private school.Loretta made the same decision for her daughter after she experienced a bad first grade year. After hearing about the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund she immediately applied.

The reasons she chose to take her child’s education into her own hands and
make the choice to put her daughter into private school were simple:

1. Religion. For Loretta religion is an important part of school and life. It’s a
constant reminder of how you should treat others.

2. The class sizes are smaller. This makes a big difference because if her children
don’t understand something the teacher is able to figure it out a lot quicker and address learning issues on the spot.
3. Academics. She thinks about it now and for her children’s futures. Private schools provide programs and courses to prepare kids for college.
4. Parent involvement. Communication is more open with the teachers and
administration. There’s always something going on for parents to be involved in with the school. This helps her stay actively involved in her children’s education.
5. Dedicated teachers. Teachers care and are accessible to the students when they need help.
6. Safety. Private schools are safer because of their higher standards and
disciplinary standards.
7. Balanced programming. Not only do private schools provide academic
opportunities through many programs and resources they also provide
extracurricular activities. Loretta believes that it helps children to explore their interests and talents as well as encouraging them.
8. Futures. Private schools help students focus on their future and what they want out of life.

“Now that I have kids I want the best for them,” she added. “I want and expect a better education for them and the scholarships have helped me meet those expectations. I know what they can achieve in private schools, and I, as a parent, have the power to help them achieve it by providing them the best education possible.”

Stephanie Keahey's children defy the odds because of the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund

Stephanie Keahey’s son Caleb attended a school that pushed him to the back when they saw that it was hard for him to focus. They only recognized behavioral issues and didn’t see that he really wanted to learn. Stephanie was told that he needed to be professionally evaluated and put on medication. After switching to a private school, Caleb completely transformed.

“Caleb has become an entirely different child in the past three years since attending his private school,” said Stephanie Keahey. “His teachers have not mentioned him needing to be evaluated or medicated. And even on his rough days, they say they expect nine year old boys to be like that.”

The teachers now see Caleb’s potential and his promise for a better future, so much so, that he received honors awards on awards day.

Stephanie’s daughter Jailyah is a different type of student all the way around. She loves school. Stephanie says that because of the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, she is applying for The Altamont School in Birmingham, Alabama. “Because of the scholarship, schools are on my radar that were not before because of financial reasons,” Stephanie added.

Jailyah has the grades, recommendations and transcripts to attend Altamont, the number two private school in the state. It would be a dream come true for Jailyah to attend. She is waiting on the decision for acceptance. Stephanie says that attending Altamont would change her daughter’s life in a way that nothing else would.

“I can relate to the concerns public schools have about these scholarships,” said Stephanie. “However, they need to understand the facts of the program.” Stephanie says that watching her children evolve into well-educated, well-rounded and well-spoken young people has been a blessing. She believes that statistically they would have never had this opportunity without the scholarships. To anyone who doubts the validity or benefits of the program, including the legislators at the Statehouse, the proof is in Caleb and Jailyah.

Tion Berry soars at Alabama Christian Academy, in Montgomery, because of the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund

Tion Berry soars at Alabama Christian Academy, in Montgomery, because of the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund Delia Hasberry has seen an increase in her daughter Tion’s grades since transferring to Alabama Christian Academy in Montgomery, Alabama. Tion was feeling pressured to ‘fit in’ in public schools before changing schools. Now that the pressure is gone, she is soaring.

“My daughter comes home now with questions and we discuss what she has learned at school during the day,” said Delia Hasberry. “It’s now more about the lessons, learning and understanding instead about if she is wearing the latest clothes or shoes just to ‘fit in.”

Tion also feels less hesitant to ask teachers questions if she doesn’t understand something than she did before. The smaller classes at Alabama Christian Academy allow her to interact one-on-one with her teachers. Her classes are helping her become prepared to attend college.

“Tion also feels inspired and much more confident in her private school.” Delia added. The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund gives parents options to send their children to schools they could not otherwise afford. Parents are desperately seeking ways to keep their children happy, safe and secure in an environment where they can learn and receive the best education. Because of AOSF, Delia now sends her daughter to a quality private school something that she wouldn’t be able to do without the scholarship, and Tion is excelling.

Delia doesn’t believe that the scholarships are negatively impacting public schools. She believes that the scholarship programs should be motivating public schools to step it up and look at ways to better meet their students’ needs. She believes they should be taking steps to be competitive with other states whose public schools are not struggling.

“In our school, our private school, parents and teachers are actively working together to provide what is best for the students. At our school the child and their education are put first, above anything else,” Delia added. Delia says her daughter will definitely attend college and as a ninth grader she is already touring potential colleges. Delia also adds that her daughter is looking forward to beginning her 10th grade year at Alabama Christian Academy.

“At one time, I thought Tion would be contained by the glass ceiling here in Montgomery,” Delia said. “But, now I believe that ceiling and all of the restrictions are now gone, now that she is attending Alabama Christian Academy on the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund. Education is the key to our children’s future and we need to do all that we can to make sure they are prepared for life by giving them the best education possible.”

Kannon Hunter gets the opportunity to excel academically and emotionally after receiving the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship

Kannon’s mom had noticed an immediate change in her son when he came home from school. He had always enjoyed school and made good grades. However, the school had begun contacting her about students bullying Kannon. He was no longer eager to go to school and his attitude about studying had changed. Luckily, his mom found out about the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund and she applied. After being awarded the scholarship, Kannon was able to transfer to St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Robertsdale, Alabama.

“At St. Patrick, Kannon felt safe and flourished,” said Lauren Hunter. “Now that he’s at St. Michael Catholic High School, he has excelled even more. He is aware that the scholarship is a gift, and he takes pride in doing his best because of the gift he has received.”

Class sizes at St. Michael are smaller which allows students to receive one-on-one help with more challenging subjects. Students in these classrooms also have the opportunity to learn in unique and exciting ways that allows them engage with their teachers and peers so that they can better understand lessons. The payoff is that Kannon has all As and Bs. The students at St. Michael also are held accountable for their actions and Kannon has grown because his school environment is more structured.

In addition to excelling academically, Kannon also has matured. He is eager to do his best everyday, doing his homework without being asked and volunteering for extra credit assignments. “He has always been a good student, but to witness what this opportunity has done for my son emotionally, has been the best experience I could have as a parent,” Lauren added.

St. Michael has helped Kannon find more confidence and he is learning new things that his mother thought he never would get the opportunity to learn earlier in his life. He also knows that without the AOSF he would have never been given the opportunity to go to St. Patrick’s and now St. Michael.

Lauren feels that it is critical to keep the scholarship because it benefits good kids from hardworking families, who cannot afford to send them to a better school. She feels that these kids are just as eager to learn as Kannon is. “There are so many kids that need the opportunity to have a better future and through the AOSF’s generosity, they can. We have to keep this scholarship program for our kids.” When Kannon graduates, he hopes to attend the University of Alabama and play tuba in the Million Dollar Band.

“Kannon has been given an opportunity that I never had, nor his grandparents had or their parents ever had and I am so grateful we got this chance through the AOSF scholarship program.”

From devastating behavior to soaring academically, Mobile’s Tony Pope gets on the right path after receiving an AOSF scholarship to attend Cottage Hill Christian Academy

Tony Pope was getting into fights and his grades were failing in the school he attended. His father was worried because he was running with the wrong crowd. Tony Pope, Sr. knew it was not like his son to have this type of behavior. Pope stated that his son loved sports, but was being influenced by a crowd that was not right for him. The teachers only could do so much and Tony was not receiving the one-on-one attention that his father thought would pull him off of the dark path he had chosen.

A friend told Tony’s father about the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund. Tony, Jr. was awarded a scholarship and was accepted to Cottage Hill Christian Academy in Mobile, Alabama. Since Tony has been at Cottage Hill, his grades have dramatically improved and his teachers have taken a personal interest in his learning.

“Tony’s grade point average is up and the school offers hands-on-learning,” said Tony Pope, Sr, Tony’s father. “He is leading bible study and he has learned to set goals for his future. His friends also have the same mentality and they have good influence on my son.”

Cottage Hill Christian Academy has checks and balances in order to keep students on track with what they are supposed to accomplish academically. Tony Pope, Sr. likes these checks and balances because he feels that it makes the students within the program conscientious of what they need to do to succeed.

“The scholarship program is desperately needed for students so that they can find out what their academic potential is and develop it,” said Tony Pope, Sr. “I pray the program grows worldwide so more students can have the opportunity that my son has had.”

Tony has tremendous talent in sports and Cottage Hill is allowing him to live to his fullest potential his father goes on to say. “He’s had the opportunity to open up and grow at a school that cares about him.”

Tony hopes to graduate and go to college to study sports medicine. Sports is his passion.

“The program has helped my son realize his full potential as a student and as a student athlete,” Tony Pope, Sr. added. “My son’s future is bigger and brighter because of his education at Cottage Hill. I’d like to see other children get the same opportunity Tony has had because having a good education is important to having a great future, in my opinion.

Alabama’s tax credits become available now and people can give to the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund at that time. The scholarship fund helps students in need get the education they deserve.

Tekoa Shager’s children excel in Huntsville’s Grace Lutheran’s STEM program

Tekoa Shager’s children Xyan and Colin want to become engineers when they graduate, which she found surprising. However, after attending STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) classes at Grace Lutheran in Huntsville, that’s exactly the career path they have chosen. 

Xyan and Colin are able to attend Grace because of the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund. “My children were zoned for failing schools in Huntsville,” said Tekoa Shager, mother. “Because of their scholarship they get to attend Grace Lutheran. If it were not for AOSF, my children would not be getting the quality education I want them to have.”

Shager’s says her children were average students before transferring to Grace Lutheran and that they were shy and reluctant to get involved at their public school. She was disheartened because she could not afford to give them the quality education that she wanted to give them. After learning about the AOSF, she applied and received the financial assistance needed to send Xyan and Colin to Grace.  Now they are excelling academically. Their learning comprehension has improved significantly and their grades have steadily improved each year.

“Being part of the Grace family has had a huge impact on my children emotionally and academically. Now that they receive emotional support from their teachers and friends. They  feel accepted and are longer shy like they were before,” added Shager.

Grace Lutheran’s faculty and staff work directly with parents to help children reach their fullest potential academically. They educate students through goal setting so that students can learn how to earn trust, become responsible, make decisions and develop follow-through skills. They also provide quality science and math education through state-of-the-art technology.

Grace Lutheran’s science and math programs have allowed Xyan and Colin to find their calling and where they have allowed them to excel. Classified and ranked as average students academically before attending Grace, they are now ranked in the top 15th percent academically for their grade level.

“My children’s futures are limitless,” said Shager. “I’d hate to think about what their futures would have looked like if they had stayed in the failing school system. The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund was the ONLY option for my kids’ futures. I don’t want to think about what would happen if the program was no longer available because for me, my children would have no future if they were not able to attend Grace.”

Carlos Thomas

Success Unlimited Academy in Montgomery, Alabama helps Carlos Webster turn the corner

Nyena Webster wanted to send her son Carlos to a new school, but knew she could never afford to on her teacher’s salary. Carlos was in the fifth grade. He didn’t like school and he fought his mom everyday not to have to go. When Nyena found out about the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, she knew she could get help to find Carlos a better school option.

“He was one of 30 kids in a classroom at his old school,” said Webster. “He is the kind of child that needs to be placed in an one-on-one small group setting. I was just struggling to help him and get him to where he wanted to learn.”

Carlos Thomas

Success Academy is a Comfort Zone

With the scholarship, Webster was able to send her son to a school where he could learn. Since he’s been attending Success Unlimited Academy he has found his comfort zone and his grades have improved. His learning environment is different too because he is getting the attention he needs from the teachers. “The school reminds me a lot of home school and parents with their one-on-one approach,” added Webster.

Carlos is now in the 10th grade and he is talking about going to college–something his mother thought he would never talk about. “For me the school has been a lifesaver for my son.”

Webster would like her other son, Uriah, to attend Success Unlimited Academy, but he’s on a waiting list. “Uriah and Carlos are like night and day. Uriah tends to conform to his surroundings, but I want him to go to private school.” At least for this year, it is not possible because there were only 300 spots out of 2,000 applicants available.

Webster believes that teachers and schools should be focusing more on the students rather than testing or money. Her vision for all of her kids is that they have a safe and nurturing learning environment.

Webster added, “It’s important that we continue to support the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund through the Alabama Accountability Act because the program has changed the life of my older son.”

Success Unlimited Academy is a calming learning environment

“It makes me mad to even think about it,” said Carlos. “Other kids bullied me constantly in public school and I would tell the teachers and they wouldn’t do anything about the bullying.” Finally he decided he had to stand up for himself and got into fights. After that he didn’t care about school and college wasn’t event on his radar.

However, since being in a school where he isn’t bullied and his grades are improving, Carlos is beginning to think about what college would be best for him to attend and best for his future.

Admittedly, Success Unlimited Academy was a big surprise for him and his favorite subject is reading.

“Success is a calming place where there is no bullying and everyone wants to be your friend,” said Carlos. “Now I have a lot of friends.”

Carlos hopes his brother gets the chance to attend Success Unlimited Academy and believes that he would be the smartest student in the whole school. He also believes that his brother wants him to be successful, and Carlos wants that too for his brother.

Note: AOSF has distributed more than 10,000 scholarships and $50 million since 2014 to help thousands of low-income children in more than 30 Alabama counties.