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Program helps Dawson County students achieve
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Dawson County students who otherwise may not have been able to afford college are getting another shot at higher education.

Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen Georgia announced Monday that an additional 19 Georgia school systems will be participating in the program in the 2015-2016 school year.

"I am very excited to announce that the Dawson County School System has been approved as part of the 2015-16 cohort of new participating local REACH school systems in Georgia," said Dawson County School Superintendent Damon Gibbs.

"The REACH program is a program started a couple of years ago by Gov. [Nathan] Deal. It provides scholarships for some of our high performing, [lower income] students, so there's a lot of qualifications for that program."

Five eighth grade students in Dawson County will be chosen to each receive a $10,000 scholarship for a Georgia HOPE-eligible two or four-year college.

If the recipient continues to meet the requirements through high school, they will receive the funds upon graduation.

"Some colleges in Georgia are even matching those scholarships," Gibbs said. "So they have the potential, in some places in Georgia, to have a $20,000 scholarship."

REACH was launched in 2012 as a key initiative of Complete College Georgia.

School systems partner with REACH and identify academically promising, low income eighth grade students to serve as REACH Scholars. These scholars are paired with a mentor and an academic coach through high school.

"The REACH program is a premier example of how we are working to expand access to higher education to students who otherwise would not be able to afford it," said Deal in a release. "Through REACH, Georgia's most promising students can turn their dream of attending college and making a better life for themselves and their families into a reality."

The first year of the program is funded through the state, Gibbs said.

"Next year, however, we have to raise a portion of that to offset the cost," he said. "We will begin fund raising initiatives during the 2015-2016 school year for that. We're hoping to partner with civic organizations to help with that."