Understanding the Gardiner Scholarship: A Comprehensive Guide

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a female high school student looking happy

Understanding the Gardiner Scholarship: A Comprehensive Guide

Scholarships provide vital financial aid to students who want to pursue their educational goals, but unfortunately, not everyone has access to them. This can be particularly challenging for families who have children with unique abilities or special needs, which is where the Gardiner Scholarship comes in.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the Gardiner Scholarship, from its history and eligibility requirements to application processes and success stories.

What is the Gardiner Scholarship?

So what is the Gardiner Scholarship? It is a state-funded scholarship that provides financial aid to students with unique abilities or special needs in Florida. The scholarship was established in 2014 and is managed by the Florida Department of Education (DOE). It aims to provide families with more educational options and support as they navigate the challenges of learning differences.

History and Purpose of the Scholarship

The scholarship is named after Jeffery and Becky Gardiner, who were active advocates for children with unique abilities. The scholarship was created in recognition of their efforts to help provide better educational opportunities for these children. Its purpose is to provide families with customized educational programs that are tailored specifically to their children’s needs.

Before the scholarship was established, families of children with unique abilities often struggled to find the resources they needed to provide their children with an education that met their needs.

Many families were forced to rely on public schools, which often did not have the resources or expertise to provide the specialized education that these children required. As a result, many of these children were left behind and did not receive the education they needed to reach their full potential.

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The scholarship was created to address this problem by providing families with the resources they need to provide their children with a customized education that meets their unique needs.

The scholarship provides families with the financial resources they need to pay for educational services and support, such as tutoring, therapy, and other specialized services that are not typically covered by public schools.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for the Gardiner Scholarship, students must meet certain criteria. First, they must either have been diagnosed with one of the qualified disabilities recognized by the DOE or meet specific eligibility criteria established by the state. These disabilities include, but are not limited to, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and spina bifida.

Second, students must be residents of Florida and be eligible to receive services from the Florida Department of Children and Families. This means that they must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen and meet certain income and other eligibility requirements.

Finally, students must be enrolled in either a public school or an eligible private school in Florida. The scholarship can be used to pay for tuition, fees, and other educational expenses, such as textbooks and supplies.

The scholarship is a valuable resource for families of children with unique abilities. It provides them with the financial resources and supports they need to provide their children with a customized education that meets their unique needs. By helping these children reach their full potential, the scholarship is helping to build a brighter future for Florida.

How to apply for the Gardiner Scholarship

Applying for the Gardiner Scholarship is a relatively straightforward process, but it does require certain documentation and forms to be completed. The scholarship is a scholarship program that provides eligible Florida students with special needs the opportunity to attend a participating private school or home education program.

The scholarship is designed to provide educational options to families who may not be able to afford the specialized services their child needs.

While the application process may seem daunting at first, it is important to remember that the scholarship is a valuable resource for families who have children with special needs. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the application process:

Application Process and Deadlines

The application process for the scholarship is administered online by Step Up for Students, an organization that manages several state-funded scholarships in Florida. The application form can be accessed on their website, and it is important to note that it is only available during specific application periods. These periods open several months before the school year begins, and early application is recommended.

It is important to note that the application process for the Gardiner Scholarship is highly competitive, and not all applicants will be accepted. Therefore, it is important to submit your application as early as possible to increase your chances of being accepted.

Required Documentation and Forms

When applying for the Gardiner Scholarship, families are required to provide certain documentation and forms. This includes the student’s individualized education plan (IEP) or a 504 plan, as well as proof of residency and eligibility. It is also recommended to submit any additional medical or educational records that may be relevant to the student’s eligibility.

It is important to note that the eligibility requirements for the scholarship are strict, and not all applicants may meet the criteria. Therefore, it is important to carefully review the eligibility requirements before submitting your application. If you have any questions or concerns about your eligibility, it is recommended that you contact Step Up for Students for assistance.

Financial Benefits of the Gardiner Scholarship

One of the key benefits of the Gardiner Scholarship is the financial aid it provides to families with children with unique abilities or special needs. Understanding how this works is essential to making informed decisions about education and financing for your child.

a male student sitting and smiling

For families with children with special needs, the cost of education can be overwhelming. The scholarship offers a way to alleviate some of those financial burdens, allowing families to focus on their child’s educational and developmental needs. This scholarship can provide a lifeline to families who may not have access to the resources necessary to fully support their child’s education.

Award Amounts and Distribution

The amount awarded to families through the scholarship varies depending on the student’s grade level and individual needs. Families can receive up to $10,000 per year per student to cover educational expenses. This can include tuition, books, therapy services, and technology.

It is important to note that the scholarship distribution is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The scholarship provides different payment schedules, including monthly, quarterly, and semester payment options. This allows families to tailor their payment schedule to their unique needs and financial situation.

Approved Expenses and Restrictions

While the scholarship covers a range of expenses, it is important to note that some expenses are not approved. For example, transportation and room and board expenses are not covered by the scholarship. It is also essential to adhere to other approved expense guidelines, according to the DOE.

However, the scholarship does cover a wide range of educational expenses that are essential to a child’s success. This includes tuition for private schools, therapy services such as speech and occupational therapy, and technology such as iPads or laptops. These resources can be instrumental in helping a child with unique abilities or special needs reach their full potential.

Renewing and Maintaining the Gardiner Scholarship

Once you’ve received the Gardiner Scholarship for one academic year, it is important to understand how to renew and maintain it for future years. Receiving the scholarship is an incredible opportunity for families with children who have special needs. It provides financial assistance to help cover the cost of tuition, books, and other educational expenses.

Annual Renewal Process

Renewing the scholarship requires that you reapply each year. The application deadline for renewals is typically in May, and applicants should respond quickly to ensure their continued eligibility for the scholarship. During the renewal application process, you will be required to provide certain documentation and ensure that you are continuing to meet eligibility criteria.

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It is important to note that the renewal process is not automatic. Families must actively apply for renewal each year to continue receiving the scholarship. This is why it is crucial to pay close attention to deadlines and submit all required documentation in a timely manner.

Maintaining Eligibility and Reporting Requirements

Maintaining eligibility is vital to ensuring the continued receipt of the scholarship. To remain eligible, families must maintain residency in Florida, and the student must continue to meet eligibility criteria. This includes maintaining a diagnosis of one of the qualifying disabilities and demonstrating a need for special education services.

In addition to meeting eligibility criteria, families must also fulfill reporting requirements. Each year, families must submit an annual report to the Department of Education (DOE) detailing how the scholarship funds were used and the student’s successes and needs. This report is due by August 1st of each year and is an essential part of maintaining eligibility for the scholarship.

It is important to note that failure to meet reporting requirements or maintain eligibility criteria can result in the loss of the scholarship. Therefore, it is crucial for families to stay informed and up-to-date on all requirements to ensure the continued receipt of this valuable scholarship.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Gardiner Scholarship

As with any scholarship, families will often have questions before committing to using the funding. Here are a few frequently asked questions about the Gardiner Scholarship.

Can the Gardiner Scholarship be combined with other scholarships?

Yes, the Gardiner Scholarship can be combined with other state and local scholarships as long as they do not preclude eligibility for other programs.

It is important to note that some scholarships may have specific requirements or restrictions that could impact a student’s eligibility for the scholarship. Families should carefully review the terms and conditions of any other scholarships they are considering to ensure that they are still eligible.

What happens if a student changes schools or moves out of state?

If a student changes schools, parents can transfer the scholarship to the new school as long as they are eligible to receive it. This can provide families with greater flexibility in choosing the educational setting that best meets their child’s needs.

However, if the family moves out of Florida, they will forfeit their eligibility to receive funding for that upcoming academic year. This is because the scholarship is only available to Florida residents who meet the eligibility requirements.

What types of expenses are covered by the Gardiner Scholarship?

The scholarship can be used to cover a wide range of educational expenses, including tuition, fees, textbooks, curriculum materials, and more. Additionally, the scholarship can be used to cover costs associated with therapies and other services that are necessary for a student to succeed academically.

It is important to note that there are some expenses that are not covered by the scholarship, such as transportation costs and non-educational expenses. Families should carefully review the terms and conditions of the scholarship to ensure that they understand what expenses are covered and how the funds can be used.

How can families apply for the Gardiner Scholarship?

Families can apply for the scholarship by visiting the Florida Department of Education’s website and completing the online application. The application process requires families to provide detailed information about their child’s educational needs and the expenses that they are seeking to cover with the scholarship funds.

Female students holding her book while smiling at the camera.

After the application is submitted, families will be notified of their eligibility and the amount of funding that they will receive. It is important to note that the scholarship is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so families are encouraged to submit their applications as early as possible.

Success Stories and Testimonials

The scholarship has had profound impacts on countless families and their children’s educational journeys. Here are a few examples of successful recipients and how the scholarship has helped them.

How the Scholarship has Impacted Families

Many families have expressed that the Gardiner Scholarship has been a lifesaver in providing education options, financial aid, and support for their children with unique abilities. Families recount that the scholarship has provided access to the therapy, services, and individualized education that their children need to succeed.

One family from Miami, Florida, shared their experience with the scholarship. Their son, who has autism, was struggling in a traditional public school setting. The family couldn’t afford the specialized education and therapy that their son needed until they discovered the Gardiner Scholarship.

With the scholarship, they were able to enroll their son in a private school that specializes in educating children with autism. The school provided their son with the individualized attention and therapy he needed to succeed academically and socially. Today, their son is thriving and excelling in his studies.

Another family from Tampa, Florida, shared how the scholarship helped their daughter, who has dyslexia. The family was struggling to find a school that could provide their daughter with the specialized education and support she needed.

With the scholarship, they were able to enroll their daughter in a private school that specializes in teaching children with dyslexia. The school provided their daughter with the tools and resources she needed to overcome her learning challenges. Today, their daughter is reading at grade level and has newfound confidence in her academic abilities.

Tips and Advice from Successful Recipients

Successful recipients of the Gardiner Scholarship recommend that families work closely with their school administrators to obtain eligibility documentation quickly and begin the application process as early as possible.

They also recommend utilizing the expert services offered by scholarship support organizations that provide guidance and educational programs designed specifically for children with unique abilities.

One successful recipient from Orlando, Florida, shared that the support organization they worked with provided them with invaluable guidance and resources. The organization helped them navigate the application process and provided them with information on schools and therapy services that were covered by the scholarship.

They also provided their child with a mentor who had similar challenges, which helped their child build confidence and feel less alone in their journey.

Another successful recipient from Jacksonville, Florida, shared that it’s important for families to advocate for their child’s needs and education. They advised families to thoroughly research schools and therapy services and to not be afraid to ask questions and advocate for their child’s unique needs. With the scholarship, families have the resources and support they need to provide their children with the education and services they need to succeed.

Additional Resources and Support

The Gardiner Scholarship is an invaluable resource for families with children with unique abilities. However, navigating the application process and finding the right educational programs can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are several organizations and resources available to help families make the most of scholarships and other financial aid opportunities.

Two students looking up at a bulletin board.

Gardiner Scholarship Support Organizations

The scholarship is supported by several organizations that provide additional resources, support, and educational programs tailored to the needs of children with unique abilities. One such organization is Hope Scholarship, which offers a variety of programs and services to help families navigate the scholarship process. They can provide guidance on eligibility requirements, application processes, and available educational programs for eligible children.

Another organization that offers support is Children First. They provide resources and services to help families with children who have unique abilities. They offer educational programs, social services, and advocacy services to help families navigate the complex world of special education.

Parents for Personalized Learning is another organization that provides support to families utilizing the Gardiner Scholarship. They offer a variety of resources and educational programs designed to meet the unique needs of each child. They also offer guidance on developing individualized education plans and finding the right educational resources for each child.


The scholarship provides an excellent opportunity for Florida families with unique abilities or special needs to get the educational support and financial aid that they need. By understanding the eligibility requirements, application processes, and financial benefits of the scholarship, families can make informed decisions and take advantage of the resources available to them.

Gardiner Scholarship Support Organizations and other scholarships can be an additional resource for families, so it is important to investigate all avenues and make the most of the options available to you and your child.

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