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By the 'Grace' of a tax credit

November 29th, 2010

by Jeanine McDonald, OLM 9th grader 
(Published on AJC.com - Opinion section on Nov. 29, 2010)

Life in school is a lot like vegetables: You might not like it, but it the end it’s good for you. I’m only 14, but I’ve spent enough time in school to know that if you work hard, in the end you can achieve bigger, better things.

I don’t mind going to school because I want to go to college. I want to do something around interior design or architecture. It’s reassuring to be in a school where I have a really good chance of getting into a prestigious college. I am in the ninth grade at Our Lady of Mercy in Fayetteville. It’s not a school my mom and dad can easily afford. After I was admitted this fall, they applied for a Grace scholarship that covers a portion of my tuition at the school.

[The Georgia Legislature created a state tax credit option in 2008 allowing taxpayers to contribute to faith-based or private education and earn a 100 percent state tax credit for their contribution. The Atlanta and Savannah dioceses formed the nonprofit Grace Scholars, Georgia Residents Assisting Children’s Education, to help Catholics take advantage of the tax credit.]

Between the Grace scholarship and the financial aid offered by Our Lady of Mercy, my parents were able to make the small payments to send me to this school that has made a real difference in my life.

I attended elementary and middle schools in Clayton and Henry counties. My parents moved me to several different schools to try to get me the best education possible.

I was supposed to attend a school near our house, but I wanted to go to a high school where most kids go to college and earn large scholarships. My mom wanted me to have a choice of colleges because I am an “A” student.

That’s when a friend pointed me to Our Lady of Mercy. The counselors at Our Lady of Mercy informed us about the Grace Scholars program.

Before Our Lady of Mercy, I was a bit nervous when it came to high school. I knew classes at my old school would be large and students could be talkative and distracting. I didn’t hear many good things about scholarship opportunities at nearby schools. I just wanted to go somewhere that would really prepare me for college. I definitely want to go to college.

At my new school, 100 percent of the graduates have been accepted to a college, university or service academy, and the average scholarship award is $100,000 for college. The guidance counselors really work with you. And it’s truly like a community here.

At my last school there were about 1,000 students going to the high school.

At Our Lady of Mercy there fewer students, but there are many more students who are ambitious and want to go to college. And that motivates me.

There are fewer discipline issues. Here you get detention for small things, and in the end it impacts the teams at school and nobody wants that.

The smaller classes help us focus more, and the teachers have less to deal with. Most of my teachers are very helpful, and you can go to them during study hall or after school.

If I was still in public school, I would probably be getting more sleep. I have a lot more homework now. But that’s OK because I want to be successful.

Thanks to the Grace Scholarship, I have an opportunity that I would have never had before.

My mom feels when I make an “A” or a “B” it really means something. The grading system is tough.

I know that I am more challenged. I can say that I am truly blessed.

Jeanine McDonald of Stockbridge is a freshman at Our Lady of Mercy in Fayetteville utilizing a Grace Scholarship funded through Georgia’s new Tuition Tax Credit Program.

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