OSCAR & ALEX M: “Now that my children are able to use the Opportunity Scholarship, their behavior has changed. I see a spark in them. Alex loves his new school. His progress has been incredible, and what was previously called a “problem” is no longer so.”

By parents Oscar Barreto and Patricia Mancilla:

We have two children, Oscar, 9, and Alex, 7. Alex was diagnosed with an individual education plan (IEP) one and a half years ago. He was sent to a public school where they could help him with his IEP. Unfortunately, the school had very low academic performance. It was designated as a one-star school.

Alex started to hate school. We tried moving him to another public school that had help for IEP students but we were denied. The attention and resources given to my son weren’t enough, and, as parents, we were desperate. My son was very unhappy.

We don’t have the resources to send our children to a private school. The Opportunity Scholarship seemed too good to be true. For years we fought to get into the program but there weren’t enough funds. After the state increased funding, we got the letter informing us that we were granted two scholarships. We all cried tears of happiness.

Now that my children are able to use the Opportunity Scholarship, their behavior has changed. I see a spark in them. Alex loves his new school. His progress has been incredible, and what was previously called a “problem” is no longer so.

After two weeks in the private school, Alex was recognized as the student of the week, which did wonders for his self-esteem. We are joyful and know this opportunity can transform an entire family. Every day, even on Saturday, my children wake me up asking if they will get to go to school that day.

Por los padres Oscar Barreto y Patricia Mancilla:

Tenemos dos hijos, Oscar, 9, y Alex, 7. A Alex le diagnosticaron un plan de educación individual (IEP) hace un año y medio. Fue enviado a una escuela pública donde podrían ayudarlo con su IEP. Desafortunadamente, la escuela tenia muy bajo rendimiento académico y es designada como una escuela de una estrella.

Alex comenzó a odiar la escuela. Intentamos trasladarlo a otra escuela pública que tenía ayuda para los estudiantes del IEP, pero se nos negó. La atención y los recursos prestados a mi hijo no eran suficientes y, como padres, estábamos desesperados. Mi hijo estaba muy triste.

No tenemos los recursos para enviar a nuestros hijos a una escuela privada. La Beca Oportunidad parecía demasiado buena para ser verdad. Durante años luchamos para ingresar al programa, pero no había fondos suficientes. Después de que el estado incrementó los fondos, recibimos la carta informándonos que nos concedieron dos becas. Todos lloramos lágrimas de felicidad.

Ahora que mis hijos pueden usar la Beca de la Oportunidad, su comportamiento ha cambiado. Veo una chispa en ellos. Alex ama a su nueva escuela. Su progreso ha sido increíble, y lo que antes se llamaba “problema” ya no lo es.

Después de dos semanas en la escuela privada, Alex fue reconocido como el estudiante de la semana, lo que hizo maravillas por su autoestima. Estamos contentos y sabemos que esta oportunidad puede transformar a toda una familia. Todos los días, incluso los sábados, mis hijos me despiertan preguntándome si irán a la escuela ese día


JOHN BALSAMO: “School choice provided doors and the means necessary to open those doors. It literally was life-changing for our family.”

By John’s mom, Cristin

How has school choice helped me and my family? Let me tell you. I am a wife and mother. I spend my days and nights caring for those whom I love — my husband and my children.  I have two sons, John, who is ten years old, and Sam, who is six.  They’re energetic, smart, and, sometimes, challenging. They are the center of my world.

As parents, what we want for our kids is probably no different than other families. We want our children to be happy, loved, to grow and learn, to flourish in all areas, and to have opportunities and choices available to them that open the doors to pathways for success.

Right now, I have choice. My sons have choice. There was life before school choice, and there was life after school choice. Why do I look at it that way? Because school choice was life-changing for our family and for my son, John, in particular.

My oldest son, John, is ten years old.  He’s talented, he’s brilliant, he’s loving, and he’s autistic.  We recognized very early on that John was not like all of the other kids. By the time he was three, he had taught himself to read. He was already displaying photographic memory abilities. He could tell you, for hours and hours, all you ever wanted to know about space, weather phenomena, and dinosaurs.  And he could play a mean game of chess!

When John reached the age to enter the school system, five years old for kindergarten, my husband and I both understood that it would be no small undertaking. We have an atypical child going into a system built, the most part, for typical children.  You can understand when I say we were already filled with concern and worry for our son and for his future.

John entered kindergarten with an IEP in place; we had the tools needed to allow us access to the resources and programs available for special needs children. However, we discovered quickly and much to our dismay, that it was going to be extremely challenging, if not virtually impossible, to find a suitable environment and learning program to meet his own, individual needs.

By first grade, the class sizes alone were enough to trigger his sensory processing disorder and send him into panic attacks and terror. In addition, we found that there were not many teachers with the education or training to understand and work with John’s challenges as a high-functioning, exceptionally bright autistic child. Instead of flourishing and loving school, he struggled to make it through the day.

Over those first few years, it quickly became apparent to teachers, staff, and administrators that, while John was exceptionally bright, he was extremely challenged, particularly socially. We had frequent meetings and communicated daily with his teachers. Some schools were cooperative and some were definitely not.

Somewhere along the way, as parents, you realize you have to fight for your child every step of the way just to get the same opportunities and choices afforded to others, often those who fit a certain mold. Otherwise, for kids like John, needs are not met and they do not thrive.  Many times these are the ones who are overlooked or marginalized, in large part because schools just don’t know how to meet their needs.

The question we faced time and time again, from school to school (five different schools by third grade), where does John belong?  Where is the school, teachers, and programs that will better meet his needs?  My husband and I, never willing to give up on our son’s potential and happiness, were left despairing and heartbroken. Not to mention frustrated!  We knew we couldn’t be the only parents facing this same scenario. And what was at stake here? Our son’s education, his happiness, his opportunities and his entire future.

About halfway through John’s third grade year, we made the decision to take on homeschooling. We had to find a way to feed his growing mind, to help him remember what it was like to love learning, and to just feel good about himself.  My brilliant little boy, who once loved to learn and read all day, had given up.  He had, at seven years-old, accepted this fate.  It was utterly gut wrenching.  The traumas of bad experience after experience, school after school, had left him without an ounce of self confidence. Of course, this spilled into every area of our family and home life. Every single day was a mountain to climb.

What will become of him? What will his future look like? As parents, our hearts were broken.  We had no other alternatives, until we learned about the school choice coalition.  By then, as parents, we thought we’d opened every door available to us, none successful. But, by utilizing scholarship funds available to children and families just like us, school choice provided not only more doors, but the keys to open those doors.  To us, school choice said, “Here’s another door. Try this. Don’t give up. Your son matters as much as any other child. His needs deserve to be met like any other child’s.  Maybe this will help.”

By word of mouth, we heard about a faith-based private school, almost an hour’s drive from where we lived at the time.  Honestly, we were so afraid of trying another school. The last thing we wanted to do was put John through another traumatizing experience. With hope and a prayer, we decided to enroll John for the fourth grade year at Far West. We also applied for several scholarships available to families suffering financial hardships and for families of children with special needs.

We were successful in obtaining scholarship funds made available through the school choice initiative and John began fourth grade at Far West Academy. We hoped. We prayed. We were terrified and afraid to get our hopes up.

But we found a school that was different. We found a school that could work with John on a smaller scale, accommodating his own individual needs. Smaller classes, less transitioning and unstructured periods, more one-on-one time. We found a school willing and able to teach children in various ways- both traditional and nontraditional: more hands-on and visual, both inside the classroom and out.  They encourage patience, kindness, and that every child is important. And better yet? He was happy again. He loved school again. He believed in himself again. Everything went from being “I can’t” to “I can.”

I was no longer terrified to send my son to school. We had found hope as a family. We found life and learning, growth and progression. Possibilities became endless and our future was once again bright.

We packed up our lives, John and his kindergarten-aged brother Sam, and moved to the other end of the city to be close to the school. There was no question about it. Once we knew we had found a school that could successfully meet and exceed my children’s needs, we didn’t hesitate.

School choice provided doors and the means necessary to open those doors. It literally was life-changing for our family. Were it not for the scholarship funding made available through school choice, none of this would have been possible.


ARACELY DE LA CRUZ: “As a parent I just want the best for my kids; I want to them to be successful and have the opportunities I didn’t have as a child.”

My name is Aracely De La Cruz. I am a single mother of three children between the ages of eight and eleven years old. I am raising all three boys on my own and I try my hardest to provide them with a successful future. I constantly strive for them to have the best education I can give them. All three of my boys were blessed with the scholarship program. They are currently in the second year at their new school. I can’t begin to count how many changes I’ve seen in my boys since they’ve changed schools. I’m here to ask you please give our family the opportunity to keep the scholarships.

The scholarship program has helped us in countless ways. As a single parent it’s very difficult economically, and thanks to the scholarships, my children can now go to Calvary Chapel Christian School. This school has proven to be safer, and the teachers and staff are dedicated to making the school a bully free zone. My kids have improved tremendously in their academic performance and self-esteem, and they’re even more motivated to do school work.

My middle son struggles with a learning disability. At his old school he received no help no matter how much we tried. He was also bullied for several months and the school did nothing to resolve the issue even after I addressed it to the teacher and the principal. At that school they were constantly failing their classes and never wanted to go to school. No mater how much they studied or how hard they worked, their grades never improved. They could never reach their goals. It’s so heartbreaking to see your kids cry every time they get their report cards. They would call themselves dumb because their grades never reached above a C average.

Today I can say I feel proud and even at ease knowing that my children are in a safer environment and they are in a place that challenges them to perform their best at school and even at home. I have witnessed how much their academic level is improving along with their emotional well-being. My kids look forward to getting their report cards every quarter now. Its such a blessing to see how happy they are now and how excited they get about school.

I want kids and parents to have the same opportunity we were blessed with. Please do not take the scholarship program away. Our children are our future and we need to give them the best education and best building blocks possible so they can grow up and be good influences on younger generations.

As a parent I just want the best for my kids; I want to them to be successful and have the opportunities I didn’t have as a child.


THE MANZANOS: “The Opportunity Scholarship helped me to choose a school that can help make sure my children do not fall behind.”

Without the Nevada Opportunity Scholarship, my children could not attend their school and I would have to send them back to public school. But because of the scholarship I can put them in a school of my choice.

My biggest concern has been my children’s safety. The difference that I noticed when my children moved to private school is that they feel safe. They are safe in the school that they attend now. I am also calm because I’m no longer worrying that something is going to happen to them.

In fact, just the other day, the school called me to say my son had fallen down on the playground. Twice he has fallen and they have immediately called me, to tell me what happened and to tell me he was okay. They asked, “Do you want to come pick him up? If he’s staying at school, do you want to talk to him?” They they connected me and I talked to him.

For me, their school is like a big family. They’re part of my family. It’s calm and the kids feel safe. At school, it’s like their home.

The Opportunity Scholarship helped me to choose a school that can help make sure my children do not fall behind. I saw how a member of my family fell a bit behind because he was an ESL student. Although, in our house, we speak Spanish, he is capable of learning English. I don’t want my children to be held back because of the language barrier. My hope is that lawmakers protect programs like the one our family uses because there are too many children in need of this support.


MIA GOMEZ: “We were looking for a choice for an education that would fit her needs.”

From Mia’s dad, Bernardo Gomez

We became concerned about my daughter’s education. We believed she wasn’t being challenged enough and she wasn’t getting enough support at her prior school. So we started exploring options for her and learned about the Nevada Opportunity Scholarship.

Last year, in her private school, our daughter started out on the volleyball team. We got letters throughout the year congratulating her on her grades. She wanted to be on the dance team, tried out, and was accepted. We are really proud of her. It’s also been helping out a lot with our daughter’s confidence.


“We were looking for a choice for an education that would fit her needs.”

We can really see a difference in Mia since she started at her new school. Before we had to push her to do her homework, and whatever else she needed to do. Now, even late at night, she is doing her homework without us having to push her to do so.

We weren’t looking to send our daughter to a private school. We were looking for a choice for an education that would fit her needs. We have two daughters; Mia, who is 12, and Alexa, who is seven. Alexa is still in a public school. We believe we know our children and, as parents, we know what is best for them. That is why we chose private school for one, because her public school wasn’t the right fit. For our other daughter a public school was the right choice. Each child is different and we want the best for both of our children. School choice makes that possible.


GARRETT HAMPTON: “School choice means to me that I’m allowed to send my son that fits him. Each parent is the best barometer for how we teach our children.”

From Garrett’s dad, Buddy Hampton

I am a single father. I have three children. I worked for the state for 27 years. I’m a retired police officer. If it wasn’t for the Nevada scholarship program, I would have a hard time sending my child to his school.

The opportunity scholarship allows me to send my son to a school that teaches him as an individual instead of teaching to the system. For some people, that system works wonders. But for Garrett, that system failed him. Academically he was at the top of his class but emotionally he was not.

All children are different. Some children work great in public school. But other children are sometimes left behind. Public schools teach the majority of students, but when your child is at the top or at the bottom level in learning they sometimes fall through the cracks. So, with his scholarship, it allows me both to send my son to a great school and give me the resources to enhance his education.

My son’s teacher is wonderful. She has the ability to redirect Garrett so that, for instance, when she says, “we need to do a writing assignment and you need to tell me about yourself,” whereas the average student needs to write one or two sentences, she will say, “Garrett, we want you to write five sentences.”

School choice means to me that I’m allowed to send my son that fits him. Each parent is the best barometer for how we teach our children. A school administrator is only with a child for a short amount of time and only sees him or her sporadically. As a parent, I’m with my son all of the time. So I know what works best for him and his education.