When it came time for Miami resident Lily Suquet and her son Ethan to determine which middle school Ethan would attend, they decided to shop around. After looking at five different schools, they finally settled on Jose Marti Mast Academy in Hialeah, a magnet school with a STEM focus, where Ethan is now an 11th grader.
At his old school, Ethan regularly achieved straight A’s, but he knew that a more challenging learning environment would enhance his education and better prepare him for future success, so in choosing Jose Marti, he chose a school that would test his learning capacity.
Looking back, it was the best decision the Suquet family could have made. However, it didn’t come without significant challenges.
For Ethan, moving from a “very average” school that didn’t push him to a more rigorous academic environment was initially a culture shock.
“I was overwhelmed in the beginning,” he said. “I wasn’t used to doing so much homework. It was really tough to get used to at first.”
But the challenge paid off.
Today, Ethan is enrolled in six AP classes (compared to two last semester), and he will graduate with an associate’s degree.
From Lily’s perspective, taking ownership of the school selection process is what school choice is all about. As she met with a variety of teachers and administrators during the selection process, she leveraged her ability to choose Ethan’s education path.
“I would talk to counselors and say ‘guess what, my son has been accepted to four other schools that are academically better than yours,’” she said. “’What do you have to offer that those schools don’t?’”
Choosing a school for Ethan that closely fit his and his family’s needs rather than sending him to a school that was determined by his zip code was an empowering experience for Lily.
When the Suquet family recently moved an hour away from Jose Marti to Kendall in south Miami, they didn’t hesitant to continue sending Ethan to Jose Marti, even though a more convenient option sits right across the street. The extra distance isn’t easy for their family, but it has never been a deterrent.
“It’s not a sacrifice to spend so much time getting to and from,” she said. “It’s a privilege.”
Ethan credits his education with giving him the confidence to accomplish any goal he sets his mind on achieving. And for Ethan, that goal is Harvard.
But his dreams don’t stop at getting an Ivy League education. When he grows up, he plans to run for President.
Attending Harvard and running for President are dreams that Ethan may never have entertained, let alone realized, if it hadn’t been for school choice. For Ethan and his mom, the future is bright with possibilities, and the journey has only begun.
Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.