Federally-funded voucher program helps thousands of DC kids with their education

    Federally-funded voucher program helps thousands of DC kids with their education. (ABC7)

    At 16, poetry lover Trevor Williams is experiencing his first year of private school at Emerson Preparatory School in Northwest.

    His favorite class—20th Century American Literature.

    "It really helps me to build my ideas on how to write, how to use the structure to write," he explained.

    Williams attends the small, private school with the support of the Opportunity Scholarship.

    Rachel Sotsky, is executive director of Serving Our Children, which runs the scholarship program.

    She told ABC7 News, "A lot of these are really low-income, disadvantaged students that are in neighborhoods where the schools aren't able to meet their needs."

    "I went to Mount Saint Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and graduated in 2014 with a double major in economics and business," Jeneffer Lopez, 24, shared.

    Lopez is also a graduate of two D.C. private schools: Annunciation Catholic School and Archbishop Carroll High School thanks to the Opportunity Scholarship.

    "Our program gives these low-income families school choice or the same opportunities that upper-income affluent families have always had: to choose the local public school, to choose a charter school, or to choose a private school," Sotsky stated.

    Since 2004, the scholarship has helped more than 7,900 students. It is the only federally funded voucher program in the country.

    Earlier this year, a federal analysis found students in the program performed worse on standardized tests than their peers a year after entering private school; still, current scholars stress the benefits.

    Opportunity Scholar Paule Ndjiki-Nya commented, "I absolutely love it. It's amazing. It gave a little poor girl like me a chance at education and to change the world one day."

    More than half of Opportunity Scholars live in D.C. Wards 4, 7 and 8. The average scholarship is about $10,000 a year.

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