Bulloch County Schools recently honored six new REACH Georgia Scholars at a signing ceremony at the Board of Education's central office. Each scholar now has $20,000 to fund their post-secondary education thanks to local financial support from REACH Georgia, the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education and matching funds guaranteed by Georgia colleges and universities.
The year's REACH Scholars for 2017 are: Jordan Glover and Camilla Williams of William James Middle School; Kiara Raymond of Portal Middle High School; Teresita Mendoza of Langston Chapel Middle School; and Joanna Reyes and Maritza Figueroa of Southeast Bulloch Middle School.
Chosen from hundreds of eighth-grade applicants, the new REACH students join 20 others chosen in Bulloch County since 2013.
Bulloch County Schools was one of five pilot districts originally selected for the program and is a needs-based mentoring and scholarship program designed to ensure that promising students have the academic, social, and financial support needed to graduate from high school and complete college. The Georgia Student Finance Corporation holds the scholarships until they graduate from high school.
Upon graduation, each student will have up to $20,000 available to attend college. This overall $100,000+ investment is made possible by REACH Georgia, the Foundation and local post-secondary partners like Georgia Southern University, East Georgia State College and Ogeechee Technical College, who have agreed to double-match each of the original $10,000 scholarships.
In a special ceremony at the Board's central office, the new REACH scholars, as well as their parents, signed commitments that will follow each student as they head to graduation. Students agree to commitments like attending class regularly, maintaining a designated grade point average, attending REACH meetings, meeting with a mentor, remaining drug and crime free and meeting state diploma requirements.
In signing their portion, parents give permission for the scholar to be a participant, agree to support and encourage their child and commit to various communication efforts on behalf of the student.
Dr. Deborah Mangum, Bulloch County Schools Student Support Services executive director, said that a great deal of behind-the-scenes work takes place to make sure the students have every opportunity to not only advance themselves, but also eventually, their families.
"If a student follows the plan and works it to the fullest, therein lies endless potential," Mangum said.
"My challenge to the REACH Scholars is for them to make the best of the chance that is afforded to them by studying hard, participating in guidance that will be given through academic coaches and mentors and becoming self-monitoring in assuring that their behavior is exemplary to their peers," Mangum added. "Parental support is essential to student success, also."
William James Middle
Recipient Jordan Glover said, "This honor means a lot because I try so hard at everything I do, and I believe that with hard work and commitment, you can achieve anything. I don't let any disappointments pull me down. With my mom pushing me and telling me that I can and not letting me feel bad about it, I just get right back up and keep going."
Glover's future plans include a degree in law, and he wants to get involved in the community as much as possible because he wants to "make a difference in this world."
Parent Carlon Glover said, "I see that as long as I keep telling him and his other siblings that you can do it and you are going to be somebody great in this world or you can make a difference, they hold on to that and I won't let them forget it. No matter how hard it may get, he'll have the support and confidence in knowing that at the end of the day, he has the love and support of family."
William James Middle
Scholar Camilla Williams said she is excited to be part of this wonderful opportunity and looks forward to working with the program and mentors to reach her goals. She plans to start her college education at Georgia Southern in the pre-pharmacy program and transfer to South University to complete her degree.
Mom Tiffany Williams said, "It's an honor for Camilla to be chosen and we are so proud of her. We believe Camilla is a bright young lady with a promising future."
Williams said she is appreciative of the program that provides incentive and the tools to inspire and support the students as they move forward.
Kiara Raymond said, "This honor to me means that all the hard work of getting good grades and doing my best each day has paid off in an amazing way and I'm very grateful."
Raymond's career aspirations include becoming a physical therapist and traveling around the world to help people in need.
Parent Minnie Raymond said, "This opportunity means a lot to us that our child has a chance to go and do great things in life by getting a better education. We will encourage and support her by giving her all the motivation and help that we can."
Langston Chapel Middle
"I will be the first from my generation to finish high school," said Teresita Mendoza.
Mendoza wants to be a doctor and help other people. Her mom, Crescencia Mendoza expressed the family's happiness for the opportunity for her daughter to help with school and college.
Southeast Bulloch Middle
Scholarship recipient Joanna Reyes acknowledged that her hard work and the support of her family made the honor possible.
"Many people would argue that this is an ending, but this is the beginning of an incredible and tough journey," Reyes said.
Reyes plans to attend GSU and major in chemistry and mathematics.
Southeast Bulloch Middle
Maritza Figueroa said she is very happy to have received the honor and recognized that it will help her parents financially, as she has two older sisters and a younger brother.
"I thank God I got the scholarship," Figueroa said. "I'm not sure which college I'll go to yet, but I want to choose the best."
Figueroa's interests span from music to business to technology.
Florindo Figueroa, Maritza's father, said, "We are very happy and blessed to have her receive this scholarship."
Proud big sister, Flor Figueroa, a Southeast Bulloch High School student, interpreted for her dad and said he added, "We would like to thank the institutions that were able to help Maritza."
‘Keep looking forward'
Dr. Mangum told the scholars, "Don't quit reaching. This program is the launching pad into whatever you decide to do."
School Superintendent Charles Wilson presented certificates to the students and encouraged them with these words: "The benefits to you from this opportunity will be tremendous, both now and in the future. Make the best of the opportunity and be an example to others.
"As you're on this journey, you’ll face challenges. Have faith, hope and keep looking forward.”