Why school choice matters to parents, students

January 24, 2018

During National School Choice Week, parents and students will have the opportunity to share their story on why education matters and why school choice is a right. The right that we, as parents, have to choose the best future for our children and future family.

In my family, I was a first-generation college student. My parents never attended college, and my grandparents were farmworkers. I grew up with the idea that attending a university was not expected and hardly a possibility. But I knew I wanted a different future and made a choice to do what I could to attend college. It was a choice I made … my choice.

A few years ago, as Lilianna, my 6-year-old daughter, was preparing for another year of school, I knew I did not want her to experience that same lack of expectation for college. My husband and I began searching for schools that were in San Antonio and focused on college preparation. Private schools were far too expensive, and public school options near our neighborhood did not offer the college preparation we wanted for our daughter.

Within seconds, we were glancing at a website that showed graduating seniors declaring which university they planned to attend. And it wasn’t just one student; there were many! We cried at the students’ faces filled with excitement for their future. Instantly we both knew we wanted to enroll Lilianna in a program like this and applied for a chance to be chosen in its annual student lottery.

IDEA Public School’s lottery ensures every student has a fair chance to attend one of its schools, and it has no admission requirements.

After applying, we prayed and let it be. Lilianna was ultimately not selected for our IDEA school of choice, but a couple of days later, we received an email from admissions about additional IDEA schools opening in San Antonio. They asked if we would be willing to have Lilianna attend their school on the East Side of San Antonio until one opened in our area.

Taking Lilianna to IDEA Eastside would add 40 miles to our commute each day, but we knew it was worth it, and we wanted to see her at her very own college-signing day. A few months before the semester began, IDEA staff walked us through expectations for Lilianna, as well as our supporting role as parents.

This was the first time my husband and I realized how IDEA truly set expectations for students to work harder, think smarter and realize their full potential. We were told to expect homework for Lilianna and to help keep her on track with her studies. They made sure we were aware their approach was different — but it worked!

Fast-forward a few years and Lilliana is committed to seeing her hard work, effort and commitment to her education all the way through.

After long days, she comes home with the mindset of putting 100 percent each day into her future — no excuses. Every day, we celebrate her achievements and continuous effort to do better than the day before. And today, we celebrate her accomplishment of surpassing her grade level in vocabulary, a subject she once failed.

As a parent, there is nothing greater than seeing your child excel. IDEA understands that no two children learn the same, and we, as parents, have the right to choose the most effective education option for our child.

They recognized Liliana’s capabilities and went the extra mile to help her think critically. Most important, they focused on the development of the whole child, not just one part.

Melissa Campos is the parent of an IDEA student.