In last week’s post “Education is a Difference Maker. Every Child, Every School district, Every Day,” we shared a bit from The Wall Street Journal article highlighting University of West Florida graduate Denisha Merriweather. Today, we share a bit more of Ms. Merriweather’s remarks to celebrate—give thanks—to educators who have pledged their lives to helping kids get a chance at a quality education.


Ms. Merriweather’s remarks introducing former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, including the photograph and video, post were accessed and adapted from the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s website (here):

Good morning. My name is Denisha Merriweather. This year I graduated from the University of West Florida with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary social sciences. I specialized in children and society, which led me to work in a Dominican Republic orphanage over the summer. And there I learned how truly blessed we are to live in America. Next year I will enter the University of South Florida’s joint master’s program in social work and public health. After that I will let passion and opportunity be my guide. Maybe instead of just being the first member of my family to have a college degree, I’ll be the first to have the title Doctor in front of her name. You would hardly have guessed such an outcome from my childhood.

I was born into poverty in Jacksonville, Florida. My life was disrupted by constant moves. I was held back twice in school and felt out of place in classrooms with kids two years younger. I was disruptive and often got into physical fights with the other kids. I was failing in school because I hated school. All too well, I could see my future. I would drop out and spend the rest of my life trying to make ends meet.

But that didn’t happen because of something my godmother discovered called the Tax Credit Scholarship Program… [Finding the right school,] changed everything. The teachers there challenged me to make the honor roll and I embraced that challenge… For the first time in my life, I woke up in the morning looking forward to school. I graduated with honors, prepared for college because of dual course enrollment classes.

A video about Ms. Merriweather by Step Up for Students, the nonprofit organization administering the scholarship program, shares “Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program empowers parents who have limited financial means. This year, 68,775 students are taking advantage of it. The average household income is only 5 percent above poverty.” More about the personal aspect of the scholarship via Ms. Merriweather:

I believe it is our duty to give back to those who have given to us. So when Step Up for Students asked me to get involved, I said, “Where can I sign up?” And so I work with Step up for Students to be an ambassador for the scholarship program… [which empowers] thousands of children [to excel] in classrooms all over Florida. Children that now have hope for a better future. As I have… These are not kids from your neighborhoods but from mine. I implore you to stand up for children who don’t have the power to stand up for themselves. You can’t see them but you can see me. And so you can see what is possible when you give a kid a chance at a quality education, helping them to unlock their true potential.

In closing, Ms. Merriweather thanked former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for making the scholarship possible saying, “You gave me the chance to change my life. I am forever grateful. Thank you.”

Join us in celebrating Ms. Merriweather’s success and continued educational journey to serve others. Every day, as educators and leaders, we are challenged to open the future to students. Ms. Merriweather’s story provides us this connect to purpose and challenges us to connect with students in our classrooms so they may realize their purpose, feel worthwhile, and make a difference.


Ms. Denisha Merriweather’s remarks introducing former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, including the photograph and video were accessed and included/adapted from the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s website. Ms. Merriweather is a graduate of the University of West Florida located in Pensacola, Florida. Discover your possibilities at UWF!

The Mission of the Foundation for Excellence in Education is “To build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential” (here). Learn more about the organization.

Our mission at Studer Education is to help education systems achieve measurable results that produce positive outcomes in student achievement, employee engagement, support services, and financial efficiencies and productivity. Our goal is to help school systems provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Follow us on Twitter at @StuderEducation and visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the seventh straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Filed under: Who’s Engaged? Tagged: Denisha Merriweather, EEIE14, Foundation for Excellence in Education, University of West Florida, UWF

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