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Five students commit to REACH program
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Five eighth grade students committed to become REACH Scholars at Dawson County Junior High School Oct. 23. Pictured are 2018 REACH Scholars Nuriyah Hughes, Andru Ballew, Jose Landeros, Samantha Dinsmore and Keyli Velasquez with DCJHS counselor Becca Wilson, Superintendent Damon Gibbs and Director of Student Support Janice Darnell. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Five eighth graders at Dawson County Junior High School took their first step in a five-year journey for academic success last week.

Nuriyah Hughes, Andru Ballew, Jose Landeros, Samantha Dinsmore and Keyli Velasquez each signed a commitment letter to become REACH Scholars surrounded by family, community members and school officials on Oct. 23.

REACH, or “Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen,” is a tenet of the Complete College Georgia Initiative and was established by Governor Nathan Deal as a pilot program in the Rabun, Douglas, Dodge, Quitman and Bulloch counties school systems in 2012.

 It is the first private needs-based mentorship and scholarship program in the state and is a partnership between Georgia Public Education and local private and public stakeholders designed to encourage students to persist in their educational pursuits.

REACH Scholars commit to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, good behavior and attendance, meet with an assigned mentor once a week and an academic coach at least once a month and graduating with a high school diploma.

Upon meeting those requirements, REACH Scholars will receive a $10,000 scholarship to enroll in a post-secondary university system of Georgia school option. That scholarship is matched by the university, and sometimes double matched by certain universities – giving REACH scholars up to $30,000 in scholarships.

“The REACH Scholarship program is relatively new but it’s very exciting. The opportunities that you have to follow the basic guidelines, take a great deal of scholarship money into a local university – it’s matched,” said Superintendent Damon Gibbs. “Some schools do what they call a double match so the money would triple in size at that point so the possibilities are endless for you guys.”

The program began with 35 students and $350,000 in student scholarships. Today, REACH serves 134 school systems with nearly 1200 scholars and over $17 million in scholarships.

During the 2018-2019 school year, REACH enrolled 31 new school systems and more than 600 new scholars. The program’s goal is to have all 180 school systems become REACH participating school systems and serve over 3,000 scholars by the 2020-2021 school year.