Bulloch County Schools and the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education hosted a signing ceremony and reception for their 10th cohort of REACH Georgia scholars on Nov. 10.
Six 8th grade students and their parents signed their commitment to the program's stringent academic, attendance, behavior and service standards during a signing ceremony prior to the Board of Education meeting. These are this year's scholars: Roger Claudio of Langston Chapel Middle School; Ansley Martin and Hilda Reyes of Portal Middle High School; Gabriela Mendez and Aliyah Rawls of William James Middle School; and Cristina Pacheco of Southeast Bulloch Middle School.
"Parents, thank you for your support of these fine young folks," said Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson, as he addressed the scholars during the ceremony. "Scholars, you've done great things to get here. I really want to encourage you to take this opportunity that's being given. Work with your assigned mentors, your teachers, your schools and advocates. Keep doing the things you've done to get you here and remember who you are."
Since 2013 Bulloch County’s REACH Georgia scholars have had a combined total of $530,000 invested in their post-secondary education. This local amount doubles to a combined total of more than $1,060,000 when the scholars choose to attend one of the state's partnering colleges or universities.
These newest scholars, who will graduate from high school in 2027, are now part of a group of 53 local scholars who benefit from the program. Each receives a base scholarship of $10,000, which is held for them by the Georgia Student Finance Corporation until their high school graduations. More than 63 colleges and universities in Georgia have agreed to double-match and some triple-match the base scholarship, so graduates may receive $20,000 to $30,000 in scholarship funds depending upon where they decide to go to college in Georgia. These funds are over and above any HOPE Scholarship or other private scholarships they may also receive.
Martin, 14, plans to attend the Savannah College of Art & Design and major in graphic design. "This scholarship means a lot to me, and I'm so excited to have it." she said.
Mendez, 13, plans to become a social worker. "I just really like helping people and being kind," she said prior to the ceremony. "This scholarship means a lot to me. The fact that I even get to have this opportunity is really great for me."
Reyes, 13, would like to become a trauma surgeon. "I really have been inspired to help people and help them feel better," she said. "This scholarship means so much to me. I'm so honored to have this opportunity."
Rawls, 13, plans to pursue her dream of being a surgeon who deals with traumatic brain injuries. "My mom suffers from a brain trauma, so I want to help those who need help," she said. "This scholarship will help me attend college."
Pacheco, 13, has always been interested in visual arts, so she is intrigued with pursuing a career as an art director. She also shared how much this scholarship means to her and how it will assist her in attending college.
Claudio, 14, plans to be an engineer. "A career that I am thinking about is engineering technology or something in engineering," he said. "I've found a lot of interesting things about engineering, so that's my main goal right now. I will be a first-generation college student. This scholarship will be a big help to me in my studies."
The REACH Georgia Scholarship is a needs-based college scholarship program which is designed to ensure that the state’s academically promising students have the academic, social and financial support needed to graduate from high school and complete college.
Each November the school district names five to six additional REACH Scholars to the program. This culminates a multi-month process of identifying hundreds of eligible students, contacting the students and their families, reviewing submitted applications, conducting interviews with finalists, selecting scholars and matching them with mentors and graduation coaches.
To be eligible students must meet the following requirements: (1) be currently be in the eighth grade at a participating, eligible Georgia middle school; (2) demonstrate financial need; (3) have legal status in the U.S. (U.S. citizen or legal resident); (4) have and agree to maintain above average attendance and behavior; (5) have grade reports reflecting minimum grades of 75 or better in each core course (2.5 GPA); (6) have and agree to maintain a crime-free and drug-free record; and (7) have the support of a parent, legal guardian or other committed adult.
In May 2022, the school district's first cohort of five REACH Georgia scholars, who were selected in 2013, began graduating from college, making graduate school plans and establishing their careers. Amaya Brown, Kailana Low, Aisley Scarboro, Amonica Kirkland and De’Neshia Jones are the promising young women who were the first to invest this opportunity in their futures. Their stories are profiled in the school district's 2022-23 Annual Report.
“When you think of our school district’s mission to help prepare students for success and enhance the value of our community, REACH is one resource we have to help do just that,” said Wilson. “We are changing the future one day and one student at a time.”
Bulloch County was one of five school systems that the state initially selected to pilot the program in 2013. As a pilot school system, Bulloch County Schools was originally awarded a total of ten $10,000 scholarships by the state then had to identify a local corporate sponsor to continue the program. The Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education is currently the sole sponsor that keeps this program active in our community.
The Foundation annually donates $7,500 ($1,500 per student) to help fund the required seed capital for the $10,000 base scholarships. The community can help in this effort by contributing to the Foundation, supporting its fundraisers, like the Statesboro 5K Turkey Trot, or by becoming a corporate sponsor of the program. Donations to the Foundation are tax deductible.
To learn more about the REACH Georgia Scholarship program in Bulloch County visit www.bullochschools.org/REACHGA.