Jennifer Rodriguez

Jennifer Rodriguez

“I was a very young parent going through the Joliet public school district. I had my daughter while I was still in high school, so from that time I knew I wanted my daughter to go to some type of private school and get more specialized attention in her education.”

“She started off at Saint Joe’s in kindergarten. While I was in high school, I received free child care for her through school. And then after that, I was paying for day care as I put myself through college. So making that adjustment from day care to the private school was kind of doable budget wise. She attended Saint Paul’s from first grade through eighth grade. As we were approaching high school, it’s a huge difference in tuition costs.”

“I wasn’t sure that it was going to be doable or not, but I decided to give it a shot for her. My daughter’s freshman year at Joliet Catholic was the first year that the Invest in Kids scholarship came out, and she received a scholarship. ”

“It’s a college prep school. So it’s definitely preparing her for her future, which, as a parent, you always want to give your child the best opportunities, the biggest head start for the real world. So the scholarship definitely gave me that opportunity to provide a head start for her.”

“Then she received it sophomore year, but junior year she did not receive it. That was a rough year. I was doing whatever I could to make it work, but there were a couple of times where I really did fall behind making the payments. I had received an email stating that if I didn’t get caught up that she possibly wouldn’t be able to return.”

“Then, thankfully, one of the counselors really helped us out and found a scholarship for Theresa. That got me mostly caught up. With my tax return I was able to pay off the remaining balance for the school. So I barely made it work that year. She was waitlisted her senior year. I debated pulling her out of school for senior year. Being on the scholarship waitlist was scary because I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this again.’”

“Luckily she did get it for senior year also, so that’s been a godsend. I pretty much cried because that was just a big relief off my shoulders, knowing that I wouldn’t be scrambling and trying to make ends meet to give her this opportunity.”

“We were also actually able to get her a car. She needed transportation, because she does dance and after-school activities in addition to working. It was just a big help at that point.”

“She’s able to get around, and I’m able to bring myself up as well because I’m now back in school for my master’s. I might not even have been able to do that if we were paying full tuition. The scholarships have really allowed us to be able to invest in education for our family.”

“I think that would be a great feature if they’re able to expand the current Invest in Kids scholarships to cover pre-kindergarten. A lot of the Catholic schools or private schools start at pre-K. So giving them the opportunity to start at pre-K versus [kindergarten] allows kids to build those relationships and get used to everything sooner. I’ve heard from several teachers that they can tell the difference between kids who started in pre-kindergarten or not. Getting them the head start really pays dividends over the course of their education.”

“I’m a teacher through the Head Start program which is a federally funded school readiness program that targets at-risk families with a pre-kindergarten education. Whether it’s through the Head Start program that I work for, or any kind of pre-K day care, that is always giving a child an advantage before they reached kindergarten.”

“It’s a huge benefit because being a single parent, trying to work, go to school and then raise a child is stressful. I was in college when she was 3 or 4 years old, so knowing that she was in a preschool program where they’re helping me teach her letters and numbers was priceless.”

“Knowing that she was able to receive these academics and get that boost during a time where I may not have had the opportunity to stay at home with her to teach her those things during her preschool years was incredibly comforting. I wish I had been able to obviously do it myself. But since I was unable to, I’m very thankful for the preschool program that was helping me out with those things.”

“Covering pre-kindergarten through Invest in Kids scholarships is an extension that would be super helpful for a lot of those families.”

Jennifer Rodriguez
Joliet, Illinois

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!
Keep scrolling for more inspiring stories

Have a story to share?

Tell us how a state or local policy affects your life.
If we decide to feature your story, one of our writers will reach out to you directly.