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How ‘Oprah’ Reruns Helped My Dad Find the Right School for Me

How ‘Oprah’ Reruns Helped My Dad Find the Right School for Me_5fbe58c571531.jpeg
Catholic school Children’s Scholarship Fund dyslexia Los Angeles National School Choice Week Nicole Serrato private schools Scholarship School Choice Student Voice

How ‘Oprah’ Reruns Helped My Dad Find the Right School for Me

How ‘Oprah’ Reruns Helped My Dad Find the Right School for Me

I grew up in El Sereno, a low-income neighborhood near Los Angeles, and faced a difficult childhood. My mother was murdered when I was 6 years old, leaving my father to raise three children with the help of my grandmother.

I struggled academically and emotionally in school, and it was hard to get the attention I needed in a class of 45 students. My father realized that I needed help and possibly a different school.

As a single dad, working full time and attending college in the evenings, he often watched late-night Oprah reruns for parenting advice. One evening, Ted Forstmann was discussing the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF), a non-profit he co-founded to give parents who otherwise could not afford it the opportunity to choose their children’s K-8 schools. My dad applied to CSF, and my sister and I were awarded scholarships. It was a happy moment, and a turning point in our lives.

At St. Thomas More Catholic School, my classes were small, and I received the attention I needed. My teacher discovered I had dyslexia, and I began receiving extra reading help. I started to thrive and was soon earning As and Bs. I was even elected to serve as the school’s student council treasurer.

My new principal noticed I had some emotional issues due to my mother’s death and arranged for me to see the school therapist weekly, which was a big help. I also was introduced to poetry by an English teacher, Mr. Flavo, opening up an entire world I wasn’t even aware existed. I started writing my own poems, which helped me process my feelings, and my lifelong love of writing was born.

Thanks to the skills I developed in my formative years at St. Thomas More, I learned to better communicate and express my feelings, which allowed me to deal with my problems and my relationships in an effective and positive way. I can honestly say my education set a foundation of good values that I carry with me today.

I graduated from high school and turned down my acceptance to Cal State University to begin a career at Primerica Financial Services, where I received my license to sell life insurance and mortgages. Eight years later, I left the finance industry to move to New York City and pursue my passion, a career in writing.

I am now completing my film degree at City College, where I’m specializing in screenwriting while also working part-time for CSF, the organization that changed my life by giving me access to a quality education.

If it wasn’t for the Children’s Scholarship Fund, as vulnerable as I was, I could have ended up on a very, very different path. I don’t know exactly what my future would have been, but I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had never received that scholarship. This National School Choice Week, I am grateful to be in a position to impact other children’s lives through my work at CSF and by giving back.

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