The 2022 REACH Cohort Credit: Bulloch County Schools

The Bulloch County Board of Education recently held its annual reception and signing for its newest selected cohort of 2023 REACH Program scholars. The REACH Program is a needs-based mentorship and college scholarship program which helps financially supplement many first-generation students across Georgia. Becoming a REACH scholar ensures these students can academically thrive in a university of their choice without the barrier of financial constraints, which can squelch their academic potential.

The program acronym “REACH” stands for “Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen.” Former Governor Nathan Deal launched the initiative on February 6, 2012, as part of his Complete College Georgia initiative. The statewide program ensures that academically promising students have the same level of academic, social, and financial support as that of their similarly aged counterparts.

The only stipulation to the program is that the scholars must maintain their REACH Georgia eligibility throughout their middle and high school years. Upon the successful maintenance of their eligibility, they are endowed with a $10,000 scholarship for college, with their attending college matching the base scholarship, going above and beyond in some instances.

There were six eighth-grade students from various Bulloch County schools selected to be a part of the 2023 REACH Scholars cohort. They are Roger Claudio, Langston Chapel Middle School; Ansley Martin, Portal Middle High School; Gabriela Mendez, William James Middle School; Cristina Pacheco, Southeast Bulloch Middle School; Aliyah Rawls, William James Middle School; and Hilda Reyes, Portal Middle High School.

It is the tenth cohort since the initiative commenced in May 2013. Each scholar was identified out of a large pool of eighth-grade applicants from all surrounding Bulloch County Schools. The REACH committee then narrowed down the pool based on various academic requirements and income eligibility parameters. The six chosen scholars rose to the top of the applicant pool based on their academic merit and ability to maintain their REACH eligibility throughout their school years.

The six scholars pictured below (from left to right) are Roger Claudio (LCMS), Ansley Martin (PMHS), Gabriela Mendez (WJMS), Cristina Pacheco (SEBMS), Aliyah Rawls (WJMS), and Hilda Reyes (PMHS). (Photo Courtesy Bulloch County Schools)

Upon further interviewing the REACH scholars, each scholar was elated at the opportunity to become part of the cohort. Each expressed delight for how many doors would be opened to them with the financial constraints being lifted on their dreams for their collegiate education.

Ansley Martin said, “This opportunity will help me achieve my dreams of becoming a graphic designer at SCAD.” Cristina Pacheco shared similar sentiments, noting that she “wants to go to a good college” and this honor would help her financially in attending UGA’s School of Art to become an Art Director.

The Bulloch County Schools Annual Report (Fiscal Year 2022-2023) cites that the REACH program would not be possible without the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education, which annually provides $7,500 in seed capital to the state for the Bulloch County scholars’ scholarships. Additionally, the foundation raises its funds through various donations and events, such as the Statesboro 5K Turkey Trot.

Superintendent Charles Wilson expressed how impactful the REACH program remains, especially as the first cohort of REACH scholars from May 23, 2013, graduates in May 2023.

“When you think of our school district’s mission to help prepare students for success and enhance the value of our community, REACH is one resource that we have, to do just that,” Wilson said. “We are changing the future one day and one student at a time.”

Scholars’ college and career plans

Ansley Martin, 14, plans to attend the Savannah College of Art & Design and major in graphic design. “This scholarship means a lot to me, and I’m so excited to have it,” she said.

Gabriela Mendez, 13, plans to become a social worker. “I just really like helping people and being kind,” she said prior to the ceremony. “This scholarship means a lot to me. The fact that I even get to have this opportunity is really great for me.”

Hilda Reyes, 13, would like to become a trauma surgeon. “I really have been inspired to help people and help them feel better,” she said. “This scholarship means so much to me. I’m so honored to have this opportunity.”

Aliyah Rawls, 13, plans to pursue her dream of being a surgeon who deals with traumatic brain injuries. “My mom suffers from a brain trauma, so I want to help those who need help,” she said.  “This scholarship will help me attend college.”

Cristina Pacheco, 13, has always been interested in visual arts, so she is intrigued with pursuing a career as an art director. She also shared how much this scholarship means to her and how it will assist her in attending college.

Roger Claudio, 14, plans to be an engineer. “A career that I am thinking about is engineering technology or something in engineering,” he said. “I’ve found a lot of interesting things about engineering, so that’s my main goal right now. I will be a first-generation college student.  This scholarship will be a big help to me in my studies.”

More about REACH

Since 2013, Bulloch County’s REACH Georgia scholars have had a combined total of $530,000 invested in their post-secondary education. This local amount doubles to a combined total of more than $1,060,000 when the scholars choose to attend one of the state’s partnering colleges or universities.

These newest scholars, who will graduate from high school in 2027, are now part of a group of 53 local scholars who benefit from the program. Each receives a base scholarship of $10,000, which is held for them by the Georgia Student Finance Corporation until their high school graduations. 

More than 63 colleges and universities in Georgia have agreed to double-match and some triple-match the base scholarship, so graduates may receive $20,000 to $30,000 in scholarship funds depending upon where they decide to go to college in Georgia. These funds are over and above any HOPE Scholarship or other private scholarships they may also receive. 

Congratulations to these young scholars from Grice Connect! We can’t wait to see all that you accomplish!

Brandon Robinson

Brandon Robinson is an entrepreneur and freelance writer/blogger based in Statesboro, GA.