By HAYLEY G. GREENE
Special to the Herald
On May 23, 2013, five promising young women, all in seventh grade, became Bulloch County Schools’ first cohort of REACH Georgia scholarship recipients. Now, nine years later, Amaya Brown, Kailana Low, Aisley Scarboro, Amonica Kirkland and De’Neshia Jones are graduating from college, making graduate school plans and establishing careers.
“When you think of our school district’s mission to help prepare students for success and enhance the value of our community, REACH is a resource we have to do that,” said Charles Wilson, superintendent of Bulloch County Schools. “We are changing the future one day and one student at a time.”
These first scholars were initially identified from more than 400 eligible seventh grade students. A community committee then selected them from a group of 12 finalists. After maintaining their REACH Georgia eligibility throughout middle and high school, they each received the program’s $10,000 base scholarship for college. Also, depending on their choice of colleges, more than 60 Georgia colleges, universities and technical colleges, including Georgia Southern University, East Georgia College and Ogeechee Technical College, double-matched, and in some instances, triple-matched the base scholarship. The scholarship is in addition to any other grants or scholarships a student may earn, including HOPE scholarships.
“REACH has been a huge help,” said Low. “I’m the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university. Being a REACH scholar encouraged me, and even my friends encouraged me in college and impressed upon me what an opportunity this scholarship is.”
“The REACH scholarship allowed me to graduate college with no loans and no debt,” she said.
“REACH allowed me to do a lot more things in college and not have to worry about loans,” Scarboro said.
Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen (REACH) is the state’s first needs-based mentorship and college scholarship program, launched on Feb. 6, 2012, by former Gov. Nathan Deal as part of his Complete College Georgia initiative. It helps ensure academically promising students have the academic, social, and financial support needed to graduate from high school, access college, and achieve postsecondary success.
Bulloch County Schools was one of five school districts along with Dodge, Douglas, Rabun and Quitman counties that initially piloted the program for the state. Today, REACH serves all 180 school systems across Georgia. Bulloch County now has 45 REACH Georgia scholars.
Locally the program would not be possible without the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education, which annually provides the required $7,500 in seed capital to the state to provide scholarships to Bulloch’s scholars. The foundation raises funds through donations and events like the Statesboro 5K Turkey Trot.
Brown, the daughter of Michael and Tamika Brown, is an alumna of Langston Chapel Middle School and Statesboro High School, has already obtained an associate’s degree from East Georgia State College and on May 12, she graduated from Ogeechee Technical College with an esthetician certificate from its Cosmetology program.
With REACH scholarship funds still remaining, she now plans to obtain a degree in Nursing from Georgia Southern University. This will then give her the credentials to be a nurse esthetician, which is a registered nurse who performs advanced, non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
Low, the daughter of Leihua Low-Turner, is an alumna of Langston Chapel Middle School and Statesboro High School. She will graduate from Georgia Southern University in December 2022, with a bachelor of business administration degree in Information Systems.
She already has a job offer from Manhattan Associates, a software company in Atlanta, where she’ll begin her career in January.
Low credits the REACH scholarship with helping keep her in school after her freshman year of college when her mother became ill and was injured.
“I had to help care for my family, so having the scholarship allowed me to stay in school,” she said.
Scarboro, a Portal Middle High School alumna, is the daughter of Tan Frison. She graduated in May 2021 from Georgia Southern University with a degree in Exercise Science. She is currently employed by Georgia Southern and works as a personal trainer.
She plans to apply to graduate school to obtain a master’s degree in Exercise Science as she continues her career path to becoming a strength and conditioning coach at either the collegiate or professional sports level.
Kirkland, daughter of Benita Palmer and Gary Kirkland, was the valedictorian of her graduating class at Portal Middle High School. She graduated from Wesleyan College on May 14, with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a minor in Biology with a pre-dental concentration.
She has a choice of graduate schools as she's been accepted into both Agnes Scott College's Masters for Medical Sciences program and Meharry medical College's Masters of Health Science program.
Kirkland wants to become a dentist; in fact, one of her most memorable experiences in college was to have the opportunity to participate in the University of Michigan Dental Program’s summer enrichment for pre-dental students.
She's enjoyed her four years at Wesleyan. She served as a writing tutor, a biology tutor, and she’s worked as an information technology assistant on campus.
In the spring semester of her sophomore year, she was selected as a junior marshal. Selected each year from full-time students in the rising junior class, junior marshals serve as guides at formal academic occasions on campus.
Jones, an alumna of Southeast Bulloch Middle School and Southeast Bulloch High School is the daughter of Linton and Demetres Jones. She is on track to graduate from Kennesaw State University in spring 2023 with a degree in Integrated Health Studies. After graduation she plans to work to accumulate required work hours in physician care and then apply to Augusta University’s College of Allied Health Sciences and Emory University to become a physician’s assistant, preferably specializing in pediatrics.
In addition to her REACH scholarship, she also earned the Kennesaw State University Foundation Scholarship all four years of college due to her academic excellence.