Left to right: Maria Del Cid, Samuel Amaya Del Cid, Sara Habte, and Bethel Yosef.
Parents and students who participate in the BOOST Scholarship Program testified in both the House and Senate committees, sharing their stories of how BOOST has impacted their lives.
"BOOST gives students the chance at accessing something different," said Nefretari Lee, mother of a BOOST student at Calvert Hall High School in Baltimore City and representative of the BOOST Parent Ambassador Network. "It gives them the chance to thrive and to succeed in an environment that is conducive to learning. My personal belief is that we break down the barriers to social, economic and racial divide through education and information and BOOST helps parents and families do that."
Lee testified on Feb. 24 before the Senate Budget & Taxation subcommittee on Education, Business and Administration.
Maryland created the BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities Today) Scholarship Program in 2016 and it has since provided more than 10,000 scholarships to low-income families to empower them to choose the best educational option for their children. For the 2020-21 school year, the state has proposed to increase funding for the program to $10 million.
Bethel Yosef, 10, a 5th grader at Saint Francis International School in Silver Spring, also testified on Feb. 24. Bethel told the subcommittee that she came to Saint Francis in second grade thanks to a BOOST scholarship, which helps her mother, an Ethiopian immigrant to afford their education. Her younger brother is also a BOOST recipient, she said.
"I want to thank you for the BOOST scholarship and ask you to keep it going for kids like me and my brother," Bethel testified
Samuel Amay Del Cid, 14, an 8th grader at Saint Francis International School, testified that he also transferred to Saint Francis from public school thanks to a BOOST scholarship.
"I love Saint Francis. I wish I could have started there earlier," he told the subcommittee. Samuel, whose parents emigrated to the United States from El Salvador, said he hopes to attend Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park in the fall, which the BOOST scholarship would enable his family to afford.
"The BOOST Scholarship has opened opportunities for me, my brother and many other students like me at Saint Francis, and many other nonpublic schools throughout Maryland," he testified. "I want to thank you for helping to make these opportunities possible. I encourage you to keep funding the BOOST scholarships so that kids can have the experience I had."
Maryland has kept the BOOST program level-funded for the past two years. However, demand this year increased by 25 percent, leaving hundreds of students on a waiting list for scholarships.
"BOOST is not an option, it should be an obligation to every family that qualifies and seeks something different," Lee said.