AMERICUS — An opportunity afforded Sumter County School students is the REACH Georgia scholarship. It was first awarded at Sumter County Middle School in 2015, and two students in the seventh grade were the recipients. This year, the scholarship was awarded to three eighth-grade students. This scholarship not only provides a significant financial reward, but it also provides a commitment to the student throughout his or her academic career to ensure they remain on track and end up in college.
Each student receives a scholarship of $10,000 when they begin college at a school in the University of Georgia system, and each one is assigned a mentor who regularly meets with the student to talk about college and career goals and to review their academic progress. This year’s winners are Keldrick Flemming, Jamira Jones, and Lauryn Carter, all eighth graders at Sumter County Middle School. They join last year’s winners, Keyandria Green and Alex Salazar-Sanchez.
To win, the students had to be interviewed by a group of community members. They also had to fill out an application that asked about everything from future plans to current extracurricular activities. Students also had to get an academic reference and a community reference. Parents were also required to write about why their son or daughter deserved the scholarship.
For Sanchez, now in his second year of the program and hoping to one day be a hardware engineer, the scholarship and the mentoring that go with it have been both a motivating and guiding force in his education. The scholarship requires recipients to maintain a “B” average throughout their schools year. “I want to keep my grades up just to keep the scholarship, not to lose it,” Sanchez said. ”My mentor has guided me along the way, pointing out that if you want this career, you have to do these things.” Sanchez’s mentor is seventh-grade science teacher, Inez Wiggins.
“Salazar and I spend a lot of time together talking about goals and objectives, what he likes to do and what he is good at,” said Wiggins.
A goal of the scholarship, too, is to ensure that students are not held back from getting an education for financial reasons.
The program is coordinated by Kristin Hollis, counselor at the middle school, who sees the effect it is having on the students.
“Our REACH Scholars have held up their end of the commitment by staying out of trouble, having good attendance, maintaining, and even exceeding the 2.5 GPA the scholarship requires them to have,” Hollis said. “Many times, students at this age aren’t thinking about which college they want to attend or what career they’d like to pursue. But, REACH has changed that.”
The sentiment is echoed by Keyandria Green. “It made me really want to get into a good college and to make better grades,” she said.
Each of the winners say their grades have gone up as a result of the recognition and support the scholarship offers.
Next year, eighth-grade students will be selected by their teacher to apply for the REACH scholarship and then interviewed by a panel to determine who will earn the title of “REACH Scholar.” Some of the qualifications for eligibility include:
• Have and agree to maintain above average attendance and behavior, • Have grade reports reflecting at least a 2.5 cumulative grade point average in all core course (English, mathematics, science, social studies and foreign language), • Have and agree to maintain a crime and drug-free record, • Have the support of a parent, legal guardian, or other caring adult.