Student Story: Why I’m Thankful for Education Savings Accounts

Who am I?

My name is Valerie McMurray

My birth mother was a heroin addict and an alcoholic all throughout her pregnancy, and because of that, I was born prematurely at 3 pounds, 3 ounces on 3/30/03. (I think three should be my lucky number.)

Her heavy use of drugs and alcohol caused me to have cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a muscle disorder that is caused by damage to the brain normally before birth. My C.P. effects my walking and my speech.

In utero, my mother chose drugs over me. Thankfully, the Lord knew my birth mother would not be a fit parent and placed my adoptive mother Lynn McMurray in my path before I ended up being moved around in the  foster care system.

When I was 2 years old, my neurologist said I would never walk or talk…so, I guess I shouldn’t be standing here today. When I learned to walk and talk, my mother took me back to his office and told him he owed me an apology.

School Failures

My struggles and triumphs were not just limited to my early childhood and health issues. Growing up, school was never something that came easy for me.

I started prekindergarten in the Special Education classroom. When I moved into elementary, things got a little harder. I was in a Christian private school, and I wasn’t thriving.

When that didn’t work, my mother tried traditional public schools. The public school system was not working for me either. My social life finally thrived, but I was failing all classes and not getting the one-on-one care I needed as a student.

ESA Success

After my multiple failures, my mother was approached about Arizona’s education savings account (ESA) program, where I would get government grants to fund my at-home learning.

Since learning at home, I discovered I do best at visual learning. I enjoy learning now. My favorite subject is anatomy. I truly love learning about how the human body works.

I also enjoy the fact that I am able to learn through Christian-based textbooks. In public school, we are barely allowed to say the Lord’s name without getting in trouble. At home, I don’t have that problem.

Learning at home, I get to sleep in. I no longer have to rush, and that was a big hassle in public school. The idea of learning doesn’t scare me anymore, I actually get excited to learn new things. I enjoy the fact that we can hit the road and go on fieldtrips whenever we want. My favorite place so far would be Kauai, Hawaii.

I like having one-on-one attention from my tutors. I ask questions without the fear of being made fun of or feeling embarrassed. My tutors teach me at my own speed.

I am happy that I no longer have to sit still in one spot for hours at a time. Learning at home, we change it up. We can learn from the kitchen table, outside or anywhere else in the house.

Math is not my favorite subject, but it is getting easier for me, I have learned that you need math every day of your life.

Another thing I love about learning at home is that I don’t have to deal with bullies anymore. With my disability affecting the way I walk and talk, I was no stranger to bullies. In public school, kids can be really mean. At home, I am surrounded by people who are kind, understanding and actually care about my wellbeing. They don’t make me feel uncomfortable about the way I walk or speak.

The ESA program has helped my self-esteem, not only through learning, but in the real world. I have so much confidence in areas where I used to be confused. Without the ESA program, I would probably still be failing in the public school system. I am so happy to be a part of the ESA program. I am a lucky kid.