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USF student serves as President's example to bring school choice to schools around nation

Student honored by President Trump during speech
Posted at 8:32 PM, Mar 01, 2017

A USF grad student is on her way back home after a once in a lifetime experience of being honored by the President during his first speech to congress Tuesday night.

Denisha Merriweather’s story of her struggles in school served as an example of why President Donald Trump wants to offer federal credits for school choice.

“I was so honored to represent all of the thousands of stories that's out there of students who’ve benefited from choice,” said Merriweather, “because I’m not the only one.”

Merriwather failed the 3rd grade twice in her Jacksonville public school.

It wasn’t until she got a scholarship through Step up for Students, a non-profit that gets funding from the Florida Tax Credit school choice program that she was able to go to a private school where she was the first in her family to graduate.

Today, she’s working on a master’s degree in social work at USF and hopes her story shared last night by the President will inspire others.

"I hope kids are able to be empowered to say’ hey mom, dad I want to go to a different school and the means are there for them to do it,” she said.

The tax incentive program is helping lower income students around the Bay pay for a private school education.

Nearly half the students who attend Tampa Bay Christian Academy benefit from the program, including Merriweather’s own brother.

“She truly is an inspiration for all she does,” said Natasha Sherwood, head of the school.

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