Families of bullied students find hope with Florida scholarship program

ORLANDO, Fla. — Since it started in 2018, a Florida program has given 1,800 bullied students a fresh start in a new school of their choice.

The Hope Scholarship program started in Florida four years ago to help students who have reported harassment, hazing, bullying, robbery or sexual assault. One local family said the program served as a lifeline after their daughter was bullied.


The Bertschs said their daughter had a light about her all through elementary school. But in middle school, she was severely bullied.

“I got a hold of her phone. And some of the things that were in that phone just right, it shook me,” her mother Janette said.

Read: Here’s when tolls will be reinstated on Central Florida roadways

They pulled her out of class right away and thought they were going to have to home-school until they were handed a piece of hope.

“It’s like, all the puzzle pieces start fitting together,” her father Jason said.

Using the Hope Scholarship program, bullied students can attend a private school or public school in a different district.

Read: Parkland high school shooting: Jurors recommend life sentence for Nikolas Cruz

“My old school, like I was really depressed,” their daughter said. “And like, I didn’t like myself at all.”

She was able to transfer schools and is now thriving.

Read: No active shooter found at Evans High School following social media threat

The school where the incident happened is supposed to give parents the forms for the program within 15 days of the reported incident. Some within the program say that doesn’t always happen, so you have to ask and move fast because some schools do fill up.

The average scholarship amount is $7,000 and the transportation scholarship is about $750.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson,

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

Comments on this article