A parent’s story: Private school, Opportunity Scholarship restores high schooler’s love of learning

(reimaginED) – I am a single dad with full custody of my two children living in southwestern Pennsylvania. Raising two boys on my own is challenging, but our lives got so much better when I found…

(reimaginED) – I am a single dad with full custody of my two children living in southwestern Pennsylvania. Raising two boys on my own is challenging, but our lives got so much better when I found out about Bishop McCort Catholic High School and our state’s Opportunity Scholarship Tax Program.

My son Joshua struggled academically for three years at our zoned public school before we found out about McCort. At one point, I requested that he be held back to give him a chance to catch up with his peers. School administrators told me that was not my decision, so they promoted him yet again, even though he could not master the material for his grade level.

The following year, he failed every subject. That’s when I decided to have him tested to see if he had a learning disability that was interfering with his progress. We did get a documented diagnosis, which I took to the school, but nothing changed. There was no additional help, no tutoring. Joshua continued to flounder.

Then COVID hit. Our public school was closed for almost two years to in-person instruction. The lack of structure – getting up every morning, getting dressed, going to school – was devastating to Joshua. He struggled for another year.

I had heard that Bishop McCort Catholic High School was offering in-person instruction. I visited the school and was impressed that it had been in operation since 1922, after Catholic parishioners in Johnstown raised $100,000 to launch it.

As much as I wanted to send Joshua to McCort, I didn’t see how I could afford private school tuition. Then school staff told me I probably was eligible for a state school choice scholarship. I applied for the A Opportunity Scholarship and was approved.

Since Joshua transferred to McCort, his grades have improved dramatically. I attribute that to the fact that class sizes are much smaller than at his previous school. The teachers have a chance to get to know every student – their strengths, their weaknesses, everything about them – and tailor instruction accordingly.

The school also provides the rigor and structure that Joshua needs. From Day 1, Joshua had the opportunity to join a community of students and teachers who are committed to advancing the rich Catholic mission of “learning to think rigorously so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better.”

With 10 Advanced Placement courses and 23 Honors courses, Joshua has lots of incentive to strive. And I am encouraged as a parent that, as the school website says, McCort empowers young generations to unlock their potential through a program of academic excellence, character building, social development, and leadership training.

Maybe best of all, Joshua has regained his love of learning. He is an all-around happier kid. This alone is assurance that moving my son to McCort was the best decision I’ve ever made for him.

I wish every parent could experience the benefit of choosing a great school for their child. If money is a barrier, I wish they would consider applying for whatever choice scholarship program their state supports.

Every child should have the opportunity Joshua has had to find educational success that I know will lead to lifelong career options and satisfaction.

This first-person essay from Pennsylvania father Jeremy Spontak was adapted from the American Federation for Children’s Voices for Choice website.

This article originally appeared at reimaginED.