Record Donation Allows More Local Students Pick Their Schools

In the fifteen years since the Step Up For Students program started in Florida, more than 500,000 kindergarten through twelfth-grade students have received scholarship money to help them afford private school or cover the costs of transportation to public schools they are not zoned to attend.

The program continues to grow and Wednesday, the largest donation in the history of Step Up for Students was presented to give even more students the ability to enroll at the school of their choice to pursue their passions.

Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits topped their record $125 million commitment from last year with a $150 million donation to the program for the 2017-18 school year. Southern Glazer’s contributions help fund more than a fifth of the 98,000 scholarships given out statewide. In Miami-Dade County alone, more than 25,000 students benefit from the grants of up to $5,886 per student.

"We recognize the importance of a quality education and know that not all families have the same opportunities to provide the best learning environment for their children," CEO Wayne Chaplin told students from Monsignor Edward Pace High School, where over a third of those currently enrolled received financial assistance through the Step Up program.

A group Pace students were on hand for the presentation of the philanthropic gift at Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Faculty and enrollees at the Chaplin School helped the Pace group prepare a four-course meal and then led a tour of FIU's North Miami campus.

Children who qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch program, or those who are homeless or in foster or out-of-home care, may qualify for Step Up scholarships. It provides tuition assistance to the private school of their parents’ choice or transportation help to an out-of-district public school. Since 2001, Step Up has awarded nearly 580,000 scholarships.

Step Up also helps administer the state-funded Gardiner Scholarship, formerly known as Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA), for Florida students with certain special needs. With the Gardiner Scholarship, recipients may use the funds for a variety of approved services including private tutoring, occupational therapy, instructional materials and other services.

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