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New class of REACH scholars sign commitments
REACH scholar
Mark Martinez signs to become a REACH scholar. - photo by Allie Dean

Five students signed contracts to become REACH scholars in a ceremony earlier this month at Dawson County Junior High School with parents, local officials and school board members on hand.

REACH, Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen, is a needs-based mentorship and scholarship program that is statewide and is administered by the Georgia Student Finance Authority. It is part of the Complete College Georgia Initiative.

Gov. Nathan Deal launched the program that begins in middle school in 2012. This past spring, the first class of REACH participants graduated high school.

Eighth graders Kelly Coker, Amelia Darby, Kacy Kimbral and Mark Martinez signed forms on Oct.5 that say they will commit to maintaining a 2.5 GPA, meet attendance requirements and stay out of trouble. This is the third cohort of REACH scholars for Dawson County Schools.

REACH scholars pic 2
REACH scholar Kacy Kimbrall, center, poses with her mother and Principal Jeff Clapper after signing to commit to a program that is a part of the Complete College Georgia Initiative. - photo by Allie Dean
Dr. Janice Darnell, director of student support services for Dawson County Schools, welcomed attendees and gave an overview of the program before the scholars were introduced by DCJHS counselor Becca Wilson.

Georgia State Representative Kevin Tanner also spoke and encouraged the students in their efforts moving forward, and a video message from Gov. Deal was played.

The students were commended for making this five-year commitment to their futures.

Financial aid, academic and social support are all a part of help the scholars will receive to help make sure they finish high school and possibly pursue a post-secondary education.

The program gives students access to mentors at least twice a month and time with their academic coach once a month. Leadership and soft skills’ training are also a part of the opportunity.

Superintendent of Dawson County Schools, Dr. Damon Gibbs, gave closing remarks and explained that there is a financial commitment from the school district to make the program work.

Long-term, the system hopes to offer opportunities for more students in the program.

The reward for completing the program is a $10,000 scholarship for HOPE eligible schools. Many of those schools are also willing to match, and some double match, the scholarship money.

The Oct. 5 ceremony was part of a state-wide signing occurring in multiple school districts.

According to the REACH web site, the program has grown in the last year from 41 Georgia school systems and 330 students participating to 103 school systems and 1,200 students participating. By 2020, the hope is to have 180 systems and 3,000 students in the program.