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Making Strides to Make a Difference

February 1, 2017 3 MIN READ

Uniting children with learning options most suited to their needs, Step Up For Students holds its own special place under the EverBank BuildsSM umbrella. Whether it’s donating time or money, EverBank Builds consists of three key areas of focus for our corporate giving—affordable housing and development, financial literacy and empowering youth. As you’ll see below, Step Up goes to amazing lengths to improve the lives of children. We’ve donated more than $3 million since 2014 to Step Up, and are excited to share with you how every donation they receive helps build a brighter future.

Step Up For Students is a state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organization that helps administer two scholarship programs for students in Florida—one for students from lower-income families and one for students with certain special needs.

1. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship

Opening new doors for lower-income students, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship provides financial assistance to students in grades K-12. Assistance is available in one of two ways: either toward private school tuition and fees, or with transportation costs to attend a public school in another district. Eligibility is based on financial need—not on past academic success—in an effort to provide students a learning alternative.

So then the big question is, what are the effects of the new school on students? Answer: Big gains. The typical student participating in the program gained a year’s worth of learning in one year—quite a feat considering that many of these children didn't meet this threshold at their neighborhood schools the prior year. Outside of the classroom, when you listen to parents’ excitement over the changes they’ve seen in their children, their enthusiasm is contagious. Students become more confident and more engaged in school, making it easy to see that these children are on a path to future success. Since 2002, nearly 570,000 Florida Tax Credit Scholarships have been awarded. In the 2016-2017 school year alone, over 97,000 scholarships have been awarded.


Student Profile: 2016-2017 Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Recipients


2. The Gardiner Scholarship

While relatively newer on the scene, the state-funded Gardiner Scholarship has been in existence since 2014. It is available to Florida students with certain special needs, aged 3 through 12th grade or age 22. What makes this scholarship unique is that parents choose how to spend scholarship funds. This personalized approach means each student gains access to the specific approved resources they need—things like private school tuition, tutoring, therapy and post-secondary and transition programs.

As before, if we were to ask the question about the impact on children who have received this scholarship, the answer would be the same. Parents see incredible changes in their children. Of course, the gains are individualized to each student but imagine being able to say your child started talking and interacting with others, learned how to read, or could now do their homework by themselves thanks to the support this scholarship provided. In the 2016-2017 school year, 7,318 scholarships have been awarded, with an average scholarship amount of $10,096.


Breakdown of Special Needs Served with Gardiner Scholarship


61% Autism
20% Intellectual disability (severe cognitive impairment)
6% Multiple disabilities
5% Deemed high risk due to developmental delays (Students ages 3-5)
3% Cerebral palsy
3% Down syndrome
2% Other eligible disabilities like Prader-Willi syndrome, spina bifida and Williams syndrome

We’re humbled by the work Step Up For Students does and are proud to be part of their efforts to help children and their families. But after all, building better and stronger communities is what EverBank Builds is all about.

For more information, visit Step Up For Students.