How Step Up For Students Helps Kids Reach Their Full Potential
Cadence Bank’s contribution to Step Up For Students will fund scholarships for more than 100 Florida students.
Quality K-12 education can have an enormous impact on students’ lives. Unfortunately, many children from disadvantaged communities attend schools that are not well suited for their unique learning needs.
Since 2001, Florida nonprofit Step Up For Students has been providing struggling families with scholarships that offset the cost of private school tuition. In doing so, the organization strives to promote equal education opportunities for lower and middle income families.
Giving back to Florida communities
In March 2022, Cadence Bank announced an $800,000 contribution to Step Up For Students. This contribution will be used to fund scholarships for over 100 K-12 students across Florida.
Cadence Bank has been a long-time partner of Step Up For Students. From 2019 to 2022, the bank’s contributions totaled $1.2 million—enough to cover approximately 160 scholarships.
Frank Hall, president of Cadence Bank’s Northwest Florida division, explains how Step Up For Student’s mission closely aligns with Cadence Bank. “Helping our communities prosper is key to our company’s vision. When looking for ways to make a difference, education is always top of mind for us,” he says.
Hall, whose daughter is a school teacher, has heard all too many stories about kids who are struggling to reach their full potential at their assigned public school. “Children are shaped by their environments,” he says. “If a school isn’t able to support a child’s unique learning style or foster that child’s specific talents, bright minds could be lost.”
Hall says that by funding scholarships for disadvantaged students, Cadence Bank hopes to empower kids to become lifelong learners.
Allowing parents to choose the best learning environment for their kids
Step Up For Students’ flagship program is its Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. This scholarship program helps eligible families cover the cost of sending their child to private school. It can also be used to cover transportation costs for attending out-of-district public schools.
On average, families receive $7,700 per year as part of this program. Eligibility is determined by the family’s annual gross household income.
With over 1,800 private schools participating in the program statewide, parents have the flexibility to research schools and find one that is a good match for their child.
“Normally, the school children attend is determined by their zip code. What this program does is give parents the opportunity to pick the right school environment for their child.” says Hall.
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program is the largest K-12 private school scholarship program in the country. Approximately 100,000 of scholarships are provided annually. Since 2002, Step Up For Students has administered over one million Florida Tax Credit Scholarships.
In addition to this program, Step Up For Students also administers scholarships for special needs students, students who have been the victim of harassment or bullying, and students who struggle with reading.
The long-term impact of Step Up For Students
A 2019 study conducted by the Urban Institute found that students who received the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship were 99% more likely to attend a four-year college than their public school peers. In addition, these students were 45% more likely to complete their bachelor’s degrees.
“When you consider that students who receive these scholarships are more likely to attend college, it’s easy to see how programs like this can help break the poverty cycle,” says Hall.
Hall has had the opportunity to visit participating schools and speak with kids who have been affected by the program. “It’s inspiring to see these kids thriving at their new schools,” he says.
Investing in children means investing in communities
Cadence Bank’s recent contribution to Step Up For Students underscores the bank’s commitment to strengthening its communities.
“Investing in our young children translates to investing in the future of our communities,” says Hall. “We’re proud to be a part of this program and are excited to see the long-term impact of these scholarships in the years to come.”
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