Bulloch County Schools recently honored six middle school students, during a REACH Georgia Scholarship signing ceremony at the William James Educational Complex in Statesboro. The scholars, who will each receive a $10,000 scholarship for college, were selected from 184 eligible students across the school district’s four middle schools. Board of Education Chairman Mike Sparks, Superintendent Charles Wilson, and Director of School Social Work Keith Wilkey joined the scholars and their parents as they signed agreements to abide by the program’s requirements. The Bulloch County Foundation for Public School Education (Foundation) annually funds the seed capital for the scholarships.
The 2020 cohort of scholars, who will graduate in 2025, are Shelbie Jones from Portal Middle High School; Janarria Wimberly from William James Middle School; Jaydon Lawson and Kelly Xochicale from Langston Chapel Middle School; and Saniyyah Jones and Michael Dixon from Southeast Bulloch Middle School.
“This program made me want to go to college even more now that I have an opportunity,” said Janarria Wimberly.
Saniyyah Jones wants to be an actress or singer. She believes the REACH program will help her attend college and study what she loves.
Kelly Xochicale now shares this honor with her sister, Emily, a 2019 REACH scholar, who is a freshman at Statesboro High School.
REACH Georgia is a needs-based scholarship program that helps ensure academically-inclined students have the mentoring, coaching and financial support needed to graduate high school and continue their post-secondary education. Eligible students are identified in their seventh-grade year by school counselors based on certain financial requirements and their current and future ability to maintain stringent academic, attendance, behavior, and mentoring standards. Students then go through an application and interview process.
The Foundation donates $5,000 to $7,500 annually, to fund Bulloch County Schools’ participation in the statewide program. Since 2013, the Foundation has invested $50,000 to fund the seed capital for 42 local scholars. The funds are held and managed by the Georgia Student Finance Commission until the students maintain their eligibility and graduate from high school. The school district’s 2013, 2014, and 2015 REACH Georgia cohorts, totaling 15 scholars, each received scholarships and are currently pursuing degrees at colleges and universities in the state.
REACH first awards scholars with a $10,000 scholarship; however, if the students choose to enroll in one of Georgia’s 57 partnering colleges or universities that offer additional financial support, they could get up to $30,000 in total tuition assistance. Georgia Southern University, Ogeechee Technical College and East Georgia State College are among those institutions who offer additional financial benefits to REACH scholars. REACH scholarship funds are in addition to any HOPE scholarship funds for which the students are eligible.
An additional benefit of the program is guidance offered by academic coaches and community mentors who are paired with scholars throughout the remainder of their middle school and high school years.
“Being a REACH Mentor allows me to have a positive and long-term influence on a student whom I would otherwise only teach for one year,” said Brantley Spence, a teacher at Portal Middle High School, who serves as an academic coach for Shelbie Jones. “Mentoring a student and having that student attain success as a result is the ultimate reward for a teacher’s heart.”
Bulloch County Schools is seeking additional volunteer mentors from either the school district or community. Mentoring a scholar can be done virtually or in-person. If interested, contact Keith Wilkey by email or by phone at 912.212.8883 for more information and requirements. Learn more about Bulloch County Schools’ REACH Georgia Scholarship program.
The REACH Georgia Scholarship program was first launched in 2012, by Governor Nathan Deal. Bulloch County Schools was one of six school districts who piloted the program. It has grown now to 154 school districts with over $24 million in scholarships for chosen students. The state program plans to add 10 more school systems and add 600 more scholars by August 2021.