By ANNA PRAY
Special to the Herald
Bulloch County Schools honored six middle school students on January 14 during a REACH Georgia Scholarship signing ceremony at the William James Educational Complex in Statesboro. The scholars, who will each receive a $10,000 scholarship for college, were selected from 184 eligible students across the school district’s four middle schools.
Board of Education chairman Mike Sparks, Superintendent Charles Wilson, and Director of School Social Work Keith Wilkey joined the scholars and their parents as they signed agreements to abide by the program’s requirements. The Bulloch County Foundation for Public School Education annually funds the seed capital for the scholarships.
The 2020 scholars — who will graduate in 2025 — are Shelbie Jones from Portal Middle High School, Janarria Wimberly from William James Middle School, Jaydon Lawson and Kelly Xochicale from Langston Chapel Middle School, and Saniyyah Jones and Michael Dixon from Southeast Bulloch Middle School.
“This program made me want to go to college even more now that I have an opportunity,” said Wimberly.
Jones wants to be an actress or singer. She believes the REACH program will help her attend college and study what she loves.
Xochicale now shares this honor with her sister, Emily, a 2019 REACH scholar, who is a freshman at Statesboro High School.
REACH Georgia is a needs-based scholarship program that helps ensure academically-inclined students have the mentoring, coaching and financial support needed to graduate high school and continue their post-secondary education. Eligible students are identified in their seventh grade year by school counselors based on certain financial requirements and their current and future ability to maintain stringent academic, attendance, behavior and mentoring standards. Students then go through an application and interview process.
The foundation donates $5,000 to $7,500 annually, to fund Bulloch County Schools’ participation in the statewide program. Since 2013, the foundation has invested $50,000 to fund the seed capital for 42 local scholars. The funds are held and managed by the Georgia Student Finance Corporation until the students maintain their eligibility and graduate from high school. A total of 15 students from the district received REACH Georgia scholarships in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and are currently pursuing degrees at colleges and universities in the state.
REACH first awards scholars with a $10,000 scholarship; however, if the students choose to enroll in one of Georgia’s 57 partnering colleges or universities that offer additional financial support, they could get up to $30,000 in total tuition assistance. Georgia Southern University, Ogeechee Technical College and East Georgia State College are among those institutions who offer additional financial benefits to REACH scholars. REACH scholarship funds are in addition to any HOPE scholarship funds for which the students are eligible.
An additional benefit of the program is guidance offered by academic coaches and community mentors who are paired with scholars throughout the remainder of their middle school and high school years.
“Being a REACH mentor allows me to have a positive and long-term influence on a student whom I would otherwise only teach for one year,” said Brantley Spence, a teacher at Portal Middle High School, who serves as an academic coach for Jones. “Mentoring a student and having that student attain success as a result is the ultimate reward for a teacher's heart.”
Bulloch County Schools is seeking additional volunteer mentors from either the school district or community. Mentoring a scholar can be done virtually or in person. If interested, contact Wilkey at email@example.com or 912-212-8883 for more information and requirements. Learn more about Bulloch County Schools’ REACH Georgia Scholarship program at www.bullochschools.org/reachga.