On Thursday, the Children’s Scholarship Fund of New Hampshire (CSF) held their annual “Celebrate Success” event at The Falls Event center in Manchester. The event brings students and their families who have benefitted from the program together with the people who have kept the program going thanks to their generous donations. Director Kate Baker led the event and there were many state representatives who participated and even Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu made a brief appearance.
The organization uses the Opportunity Scholarship Act that allows business to donate money to the program through a tax credit. The program helps low and moderate-income families send their children to schools that best fit their children’s needs. Each family also contributes towards their child’s tuition so they also have “skin in the game.”
Baker thanked the tremendous support of the many people involved during her introductory speech at the event. She also talked about some of the numbers of not only donations but the number of scholarships provided and children who have been helped:
We have now reached 526,164 dollars invested in scholarships since our inception. That is 265 children who’s lives are forever changed! This year alone our fundraising doubled over last year and we awarded more than $221,000 dollars! 122 scholarships to NH children! In that 122 there are 29 homeschoolers and 93 children attending 32 NH schools!
Several mothers of children who participated or are participating in the Children’s Scholarship Fund also spoke. They spoke about how much their children’s lives have been changed thanks to the program. When standard public education wouldn’t work, they needed to find the best solution for their children. Not only did they find it but the Scholarship Fund helped them to be able to afford the best education for their child that may otherwise have been out of reach for them.
Shalimar Encarnacion is one of those mothers. Her son has medical issues that could not be properly addressed in the public school system so she sought a private school. And it’s made in incredible difference in her son’s life:
Due to his difficulty with his interactions with his peers, Angel would often get into trouble, which would land him in the in-house suspension. My husband and I know that our son is an outgoing, kind, really, really smart child and were so frustrated with the system not helping us to help him. So you can imagine our extreme joy when Angel went to St. Casimir and we were told at the first meeting that they had not seen any of the behaviors or problems that were explained in his previous IEP.
Environment greatly affects a growing child. A positive environment opens not only doors, but the eyes of hope of children who once were hopeless. It creates conditions for preparation to occur so that in their future can exist the chance for that preparation to meet opportunity and create greatness.
Encarnacion’s son is now a good student who is looking into attending Harvard Law School, something they probably never thought possible. With the right educational fit, it seems there are no limits for children who were once thought to be simply a “problem.”
Mother Abi Cyr spoke about her son Thadd who her family adopted from the New Hampshire Foster System. As a parent of 6 children, two of whom are adopted, Cyr had not only a financial challenge but the challenge of giving her son stability that he hadn’t had in his pre-adoptive life. Cyr was close to tears when talking about how incredibly happy she was that for the first time in her son’s life, he was actually in the same school for two years in a row:
After completing last year in his new private school, our hope was for Thadd’s progress to continue uninterrupted, and so we re-applied for this current school year. When the news came that he was again awarded a scholarship, we realized that for the first time in his life, he would experience consecutive years in the same learning environment. We were overwhelmed with gratitude – and yes, there were tears. The increase in the amount awarded helped ease our financial strain considerably. Thank you, to all who donated!
A recipient of the CSF also spoke and told everyone in the room how much happier he is in his new school than he had been previously. The 10-year-old boy had no issues getting up in front of the crowd and talking about how much he loves his new school and to thank everyone who helped make it possible.
These are the stories of the Children’s Scholarship Fund. There are many more stories but each is different and each has the same theme – children’s needs not being met by the public education system with families that simply can’t afford to pay for the right private education. CSF helps these families get the best education for their children thanks to generous donations.
One of the board’s advisers, Harold Turner, also spoke and during this speech he not only presented Baker with a check for $1,000 but he announced that he would match $5,000 of donations that came in after another $50,000 matching amount of donations were completed. It was a total surprise to Baker and everyone in the room and surely a welcome one.
There have been people in the legislature who have wanted to end the Opportunity Scholarship Act but it’s impossible to see why. Just looking at the beaming faces of parents and the happy smiles of their children should be enough for anyone to want this program to continue and to grow. The success of all children is important to the future of not just New Hampshire but the entire country. As Baker quoted during her speech:
Thinking of all of you being here reminded me of a quote from Mother / Saint Teresa “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” We, together, are making so many ripples, really changing the world one child at a time.
The Children’s Scholarship fund continues to grow and continues to provide more help to more children each year. The results of the program speak for themselves.