Bulloch County Schools honored five new REACH Georgia Scholars at a signing ceremony Sept. 25, at the Board of Education’s central office.
Chosen from 66 applicants, the eighth-grade students, and their families, were recognized by state Rep. Jan Tankersley, R-Brooklet, the board, the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education and Superintendent Charles Wilson.
Each now has up to $20,000 available to attend college. This $100,000 investment is made possible by REACH Georgia, the foundation and local postsecondary partners Georgia Southern University, East Georgia College and Ogeechee Technical College, who have agreed to double-match each of the original $10,000 scholarships.
“We’re proud of these students, and the bright futures they have ahead of them,” said Wilson. “From what we’ve seen of their accomplishments, they will have no problem living up to the expectations of the REACH Georgia program.”
This year’s scholars are Destiny Hartwell, Nancy Martinez and Alberto Rodriguez of Langston Chapel Middle School, and Brian Phillips Jr. and Michael Vescio of William James Middle School.
“This is a great opportunity for me, and I plan to use it to my full potential,” Hartwell said.
Only 100 Georgia students were named scholars this year in 23 school systems.
“This program is a strategic investment in our students and our state, opening doors for youth in Georgia, who may not have the opportunity to seek postsecondary education due to financial constraints,” said Gov. Nathan Deal in a statement released by REACH Georgia.
The scholars’ parents attended to pledge support for the program and encourage their children to keep a college education in focus.
“We thank all those people who played an integral part in this scholarship, and we have encouraged (Destiny) to give back just as those have given to her,” said Tracy Hartwell.
Local scholars were selected by a committee of community leaders and educators that reviewed the applications and selected 10 finalists. The committee then conducted face-to-face interviews with the finalists and selected the five winners.
Each scholar will receive mentoring and coaching through middle and high school, as well as opportunities to participate in various programs that will assist them in college selection and admission.
“This program will really expand my horizons and give me a better opportunity to pursue my dream of developing software,” said Michael Watts Jr.
Four of Bulloch County’s 2013 REACH scholars also attended the ceremony. Statesboro High’s Amaya Brown and Kailana Low, formerly of Langston Chapel Middle, Aisley Scarboro and Amonica Kirkland of Portal Middle High, and Southeast Bulloch High’s De’Neshia Jones, formerly of Southeast Bulloch Middle, are now successful freshmen and are all meeting the program’s requirements.
REACH Georgia is a needs-based mentoring and scholarship program 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. Bulloch County is one of five school systems that the state initially selected to pilot the program. The Georgia Student Finance Corporation holds the scholarships for scholars until they graduate from high school.
Eligible students must meet the following requirements:
(1) Currently be in the eighth grade at an 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.
As a pilot school system, Bulloch County Schools was originally awarded a total of 10 $10,000 scholarships by the state, five for 2013 and five for 2014. Participating school systems must identify local corporate sponsors to continue the program.
This year, the foundation donated $7,500 ($1,500 per student) to help fund the $10,000 base scholarships. More than 63 colleges and universities in Georgia have agreed to double-match and some triple-match these scholarships. All funds raised for REACH Georgia locally will go to future recipients.
Bulloch County’s 2013 and 2014 scholars now have a combined total of $200,000 invested in their education in addition to any other scholarships them may receive.