Gardiner Scholarship Guide: Maximize Your Child's Education

Learn all about the Gardiner Scholarship and its transition to the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA), how it affects your child’s learning journey, and the practical steps to maximize this significant educational opportunity.

Gardiner Scholarship Guide: Maximize Your Child's Education
A kid doing experiement

Learn directly about the transition from the Gardiner Scholarship to the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA), how it affects your child’s learning journey, and the practical steps to maximize this significant educational opportunity.

The Repeal of the Gardiner Scholarship Program

The Gardiner Scholarship Program, previously a beacon of hope for many Florida families, was officially repealed on July 1, 2021. But this didn’t signify the end, rather it ushered in a new era of student empowerment. The Gardiner Scholarship Program was replaced by the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA), which came as great news for many families.

The Gardiner Scholarship had faced its share of hurdles, including legal challenges such as the McCall v. Scott case. However, these were resolved in favor of the program before its repeal. The shift to FES-UA occurred seamlessly, with students’ funds remaining unaffected, thereby preserving the legacy of the Gardiner Scholarship.

Transition to the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program

The introduction of the FES UA Scholarship Program, also known as the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA), reflects the progressive evolution of Florida’s education system. Aimed at providing personalized education paths and services, the FES-UA accommodates students previously funded under the Gardiner Scholarship, ensuring a seamless transition.

FES-UA funds offer students flexibility, allowing them to be used for a variety of educational services, such as private school tuition, therapies, and tutoring. Nevertheless, service providers must secure approval from the respective Florida agencies or licensing bodies. This ensures that only qualified and recognized entities provide these vital services, maintaining the high standards set by the legacy system.

The eligibility criteria for the FES-UA is broad, encompassing children from age 3 to either grade 12 or age 22, whichever comes first, with specific diagnoses like emotional or behavioral disabilities or severe cognitive impairment. Additionally, families have the option to pre-register for the upcoming school year, ensuring early notification and securing their child’s education.

Benefits of Allocating Funds to MEL Science

MEL Science kits promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills

With the advent of digital learning, MEL Science kits have become an influential tool for boosting students’ learning experiences. These kits provide immersive VR experiences, hands-on experiments, and tailored content that significantly improve learning outcomes. They transform the abstract world of science into an interactive playground, making complex concepts more approachable and captivating.

MEL Science kits offer:

  • Hands-on experiments using genuine lab equipment
  • Tactile learning experience
  • Improved understanding and memory retention for students
  • Tailored kits for different age groups
  • Safety-focused design
  • Encouragement of exploration and discovery at a comfortable pace for the child

One of the standout features of MEL Science kits is the consistent delivery of new experiments each month. This nurtures a persistent curiosity in science, promoting ongoing learning and exploration.

By incorporating MEL Science kits in education, students acquire fundamental skills like critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving, essential for future success in STEM-related fields.

How to Purchase MEL Science Products on MyScholarShop

MEL Science kits

The process of procuring MEL Science products with scholarship funds is fairly simple. Families must log in to MyScholarShop with their unique login credentials. Once logged in, simply use the search bar to look for ‘MEL Science’ to view the available products.

After selecting the desired MEL Science kits, families can submit a purchase order for approval on MyScholarShop. The beauty of this process is that purchases are billed directly to the Education Savings Account (ESA), eliminating the need for families to pay upfront. This ease of access and payment makes the process of acquiring these kits hassle-free.

Delivery Timeline for MEL Science Kits

A girl doing MEL Science experiment

Upon approval of the purchase order, families should anticipate receiving their initial MEL Science kit within 2–10 business days. This swift delivery ensures that students can start their immersive learning journey with MEL Science as soon as possible.

Florida presents an array of scholarship programs, managed by Step Up for Students. These include:

Each of these programs is designed with a specific purpose and caters to different needs, ensuring that every student’s educational journey is well-supported.

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, for instance, provides tax credits for contributions to organizations that fund scholarships. This program is primarily aimed at assisting K-12 students in Florida from lower-income backgrounds and those in foster care. Eligibility for this program now extends to all resident students qualified for kindergarten through grade 12 enrollment in Florida’s public schools, with a preference for lower-income families.

The integrity of these programs is maintained by adhering to strict requirements. Participating schools in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, for example, must adhere to:

  • State and federal laws
  • Health and safety codes
  • Nondiscrimination standards
  • Ensure teachers possess requisite qualifications.

Understanding Eligibility Criteria for Scholarships

Eligibility criteria for the Family Empowerment Scholarship

Comprehending the eligibility criteria for scholarships is key to successful applications. The FES-UA, formerly known as the Gardiner Scholarship, is available for Florida students from age 3 through grade 12 or age 22, whichever comes first. Eligibility includes conditions like emotional or behavioral disabilities, various impairments, and specific learning disabilities.

The FES-UA offers the following specialized services for students, including those with autism spectrum disorder:

  • Education Savings Account (ESA) that defrays educational costs like tuition, therapies, and tutoring, among others. These funds vary based on the student’s grade, county of residence, and type of disability.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
  • Services from licensed specialists in speech, occupational, physical therapies, and listening spoken language.

It’s important to note that providers of these services must be approved by relevant Florida state agencies, such as the Florida Department and the Florida State Legislature.

There are distinct scholarships catering to specific educational needs, such as transportation scholarships. For example, the Hope Scholarship is intended for K-12 public school bullied students in Florida who report incidents such as bullying, assault, threats, or other violent acts, with documented reports required for eligibility. Understanding these different scholarships and their eligibility criteria can help families make informed decisions about which program best suits their child’s needs.

Maximizing Educational Opportunities for Your Child

Maximizing educational opportunities with FES-UA for children with unique abilities

A key objective of the FES-UA is to foster the success of children with unique abilities, including those with intellectual disability, by offering tailored educational options, ensuring the best possible support for their child’s education. By understanding the eligibility criteria, which include the child’s age, diagnosis, and residency, parents can ensure that their child gets the best possible support.

Once approved, funds for the FES-UA are deposited into an Education Savings Account (ESA). From this account, payments for educational services and products can be made directly, offering a hassle-free way to cater to your child’s educational needs.

Among these educational services and products are MEL Science kits, which can be funded using FES-UA. These kits enrich family time and enhance learning experiences, allowing parents and children to bond over hands-on chemistry experiments. By leveraging these resources, parents can effectively maximize the educational opportunities for their child.

Tips for Successfully Applying for Scholarships

Successfully securing scholarships necessitates meticulous planning and research. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Review your child’s eligibility criteria.
  2. Schedule time for scholarship research and applications.
  3. Keep track of all submission dates and documents.
  4. Consult with guidance counselors for scholarship books and applications.
  5. Set aside time to prepare essays for the applications.

By following these steps, you can increase your chances of securing scholarships for your child.

Avoid confining your search to only statewide scholarships. Investigate potential scholarships from:

  • local businesses
  • churches
  • alumni clubs
  • organizations

You can also reach out to department heads or coaches for specialized talents or majors. Be vigilant about scholarship scams, never pay any fees for applications, and always confirm any offers that appear to be too good to be true through thorough research.

Timing is also crucial in securing scholarship funds. FES-UA applications completed and deemed eligible post December 15, 2023, will be considered as pre-registration for the subsequent school year. Therefore, submitting applications early can significantly increase the chances of securing funding.


In this guide, we have extensively covered the transition from the Gardiner Scholarship to the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. We delved into the benefits of allocating scholarship funds to MEL Science kits, the process of purchasing these kits on MyScholarShop, and the expected delivery timeline. We also navigated through other scholarship programs in Florida and discussed the eligibility criteria for these scholarships. We provided tips to maximize educational opportunities for your child and pointers for successfully applying for scholarships.

In conclusion, the shift from the Gardiner Scholarship to the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program represents a significant advancement in providing personalized education paths for children with unique abilities. By understanding the various scholarships available, their eligibility criteria, and how to apply for them, families can secure the best possible educational support for their children.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is step up for students only in Florida?

Yes, Step Up for Students primarily supports students and families in Florida, providing scholarships for private school tuition, assistance for attending public schools, and other educational support.

What is the new name for the Gardiner scholarship?

The Gardiner Scholarship Program is repealed and has been replaced by the expanded Family Empowerment Scholarship Program as of July 1, 2021.

How can I purchase MEL Science products using scholarship funds?

You can purchase MEL Science products using scholarship funds by logging in to MyScholarShop with your unique login credentials, searching for 'MEL Science', and submitting a purchase order for approval. This is the recommended process for utilizing scholarship funds for MEL Science products.

How long does it take to receive the first MEL Science kit after the purchase order is approved?

You can expect to receive the first MEL Science kit within 2–10 business days after your purchase order is approved. Delivery typically occurs within this timeframe.

What are some other scholarship programs in Florida?

In addition to the FES-UA, other scholarship programs in Florida include the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, Hope Scholarship, Reading Scholarship, and the Family Empowerment Scholarship. These programs provide opportunities for various educational needs in the state.