As the 2016-2017 school year comes to a close, 17 seniors will don their cap and gown as the inaugural graduating class of REACH Georgia and prepare for their postsecondary education with a $10,000 scholarship.
“I’m going to own my own chain of restaurants,” said Bush, a Scholar at Dodge County High School. “Being a REACH Scholar has motivated me to do what I need to do to make that dream a reality.”
The dream is for academically promising students throughout the state to receive the social and financial support necessary to achieve postsecondary success is the foundation of the REACH Georgia program.
“To have the first graduating class of Scholars successfully reach this milestone means our story is expanding,” said Jennifer Herring, Senior Vice President for College Affordability Initiatives for the Georgia Student Finance Commission. “We have success stories of individual students and their families and how their lives will be different. Their lives will be better because of this program.”
Better opportunities were created for Pedro Robledo, a graduating Scholar from Cartersville High School who has used the program as inspiration for a new life.
“REACH motivates me to push myself even harder,” Robledo said. “I know there’s more out there and I’ll push myself to become a better student, a successful person and reach my full potential.”
For REACH to achieve its projected potential, the program will be implemented in all 180 school systems in Georgia by the 2020-2021 school year. There are currently plans for 31 additional school systems for the 2017-2018 school year. That would have REACH in 100 systems, serving over 1,000 economically challenged and academically promising students.
“The success of the first graduating class means we have a model that works and it is something that can be sustained long term by other local communities,” Herring said. “The success of the Scholars can be attributed to not only their hard work and dedication to the program but to support given by the schools and communities.”
REACH has received financial support from corporate partners like AT&T, Chick-Fil-A and Georgia Power. Community members like DeWana Fields of Early County have added academic and social support as a mentor.
“Having community support shows the youth that they have a lot of people supporting them and boosting them to continue to strive to reach their goals,” Fields said. “With all of us pulling together, there is no reason these kids should fall through the cracks.”