Guest blog post by Step Up For Students, the nonprofit organization that administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Step Up’s goal is to provide an equal education opportunity for low-income Florida students. To receive notifications about scholarships available for the 2013-2014 school year, sign up for alerts.
Davion Manuel-McKenney was just weeks away from starting his new life as a college student when he was flipping through a family photo album and came across an image of his mother and him from many years ago. In the photo, the toddler is perched atop his mother’s lap, and her arms are wrapped around his tiny body. And both flash electric smiles.
The reminiscing inspired Davion to post the photograph on his Facebook page with a note to his mother: “We have come a long way. Love U Ma.”
In the beginning, the odds to attend college weren’t in his favor if only the basic facts of his life were considered. He was born to an unwed teenaged mother who at the time hadn’t completed her own education. But with the love of his mother and family, and the help of many others along the way, Davion is now a freshman at Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Both mother and son said they were saddened to have Davion move about 85 miles north of his home in Ormond Beach, but it was time for him to live out what they have been working toward since his mother, Faith, was just 15.
She married Davion’s father, Nicholas McKenney, and they went on to have two more children. While the couple’s marriage didn’t last, their dedication to their children remained intact and does today. Still, for Faith, the financial struggles that often come with being a single mother were very much a challenge. When it came time for her eldest child to go to middle school, Faith didn’t like what she saw in the school he was zoned for.
Desperate not to send Davion into such an environment, she started researching alternatives – and a way to pay for them. It was her dream to put her kids in a private school. She was thrilled when Davion received a Step Up scholarship to Calvary Christian Academy, which was part of their church in Ormond Beach. The fit was perfect.
At Calvary, Davion had fewer distractions than at his previous schools and was able to focus more on academics. He also was on the school’s track and basketball teams, took on the role of student chaplain and enjoyed spending time with the pre-school children. He graduated from high school in the spring of 2012.
Davion is now considering a career in teaching. He points to people like his teacher Ms. Crickenberger, whom he described as having so much love and passion for her students, his Calvary family as a whole, and the Step Up scholarship as things that have made a difference in his life. But he always goes back to his mother on the one who has truly blessed him.
When he held the photograph of his younger self and his 17-year-old mom in his hands recently, he reminisced about his life and the woman who made it the best she could. He is also proud that she now has an associate’s degree and plans to further her education as well.