Thursday afternoon, eighth-graders Wesley Boling from Adairsville Middle, Tamia Lavette and Sarah Triana from Cass Middle, Jordan Nipper from South Central Middle and Dylynn Motes from Woodland Middle became the first group of Bartow County students to receive college scholarships from REACH Georgia, a statewide program launched in 2012.
During REACH Georgia Signing Week, the five students and their parents/guardians signed contracts during a ceremony at the Bartow County College and Career Academy that will give the new scholars a $10,000 scholarship — which could be increased to $30,000 — to any HOPE-eligible post-secondary institution in the state if they maintain good grades, attendance and behavior until they graduate from high school.
Superintendent Dr. John Harper said he was “very excited about the children” who were chosen as the system’s first REACH Scholars.
“I watched the smiles on their faces today and how excited and really nervous they are,” he said. “We’ve chosen some outstanding kids today — the schools chose them, and their staffs chose them, and those are the people that really know those children. For me, it’s very exciting to begin the program and see it continue on.”
The students probably didn’t grasp the full impact of receiving a college scholarship since they’re only in middle school, according to Harper.
“I’m not sure they really understand what happened to them today and what this is going to do for them for their future,” he said. “... As expensive as schooling is today, these youngsters would not get the opportunity to improve their education past high school without this today.”
Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen, one of Gov. Nathan Deal’s key programs in his Complete College Georgia Initiative, is a needs-based scholarship program designed to encourage promising students, beginning in eighth grade, to continue their educational pursuits beyond high school.
The initial award is $10,000 over four years, but that amount could increase to $20,000 if they attend one of the University System of Georgia colleges or to $30,000 if they attend one of the institutions that will double-match it — Georgia Institute of Technology, The University of Georgia or Georgia Southern University.
Among the students’ obligations and responsibilities as a REACH Scholar are maintaining at least a 2.5 cumulative grade-point average, having good attendance and behavior, staying drug-free and crime-free and meeting regularly with their assigned mentor and academic coach.
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Kimberly Fraker said the scholarships will help Bartow’s students have a successful future while also providing a strong workforce for the state.
“First and foremost is to acknowledge that education is a strong determinant of a person’s success in life,” she said. “It’s projected that by the year 2020, more than 60 percent of the jobs in Georgia will require a post-secondary certificate or degree. Currently, only 42 percent of Georgia’s young people hold a post-secondary credential. For our state to remain economically competitive, a well-educated and robust workforce is essential. Creating opportunities for people to attend college and get a degree is one way we can work toward achieving this goal.”
During the ceremony, scholars were introduced individually by their middle school principal, and a video in which each was praised by a counselor or teacher was shown.
After the video, each scholar and his or her parents/guardians were called up front to sign their contracts and to receive a plaque from Harper.
AMS Principal Tony Stanfill called Wesley a “phenomenal asset to our school.”
“He’s a leader, and he beat out two fantastic candidates, but I think in the end, it was clear that Wesley was the correct choice for this,” he said.
Wesley, 13, said he was “very excited” to find out he’d been chosen as a REACH Scholar, “but I was also surprised at the same time.”
“I’m glad that I have the opportunities that I do to continue my education and have a successful career,” he said.
The Pine Log resident, who was accompanied by his dad, Rickey Boling, and his guardians, Paula and Darrell Elrod, said he most likely will major in aerospace engineering, possibly at Georgia Tech.
CMS Principal Dr. Kristy Arnold bragged on her two REACH Scholars, Tamia and Sarah, saying the school was “very proud” of them.
“These girls have resiliency and drive that set them apart from their peers,” she said. “They are loved by the teachers and students alike, and in addition to maintaining a very rigorous academic schedule, those girls are involved in extracurricular activities.”
Sarah, daughter of Angela Martinez of Cartersville, was surprised that she was chosen.
“I was taken aback for a while, but I was really happy about it, very excited, and I was crying with joy,” she said.
The 13-year-old said she wants to major in music education and become a music teacher at a high school or university.
Filling in for SCMS Principal Tia Windsor, Assistant Principal Jason Rood said Jordan is a scholar-athlete who is “dedicated and compassionate.”
“All of his teachers, all of his peers will tell you that he will stand up and help out anytime it’s necessary,” he said. “Just to illustrate that, today Jordan is missing his final middle school football game for this event. It’s a very honorable event, and he wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world. However, knowing this, he still showed up for practice yesterday, and when the coach asked him why, he said, ‘Because I’m part of the team.’ So, he is a dedicated young man.”
Michael Blankenship, principal at WMS, said it “became very clear very quickly” to him, Assistant Principal Ryan Satterfield and counselor Dina Donato that Dylynn was going to be their candidate.
“She represents what we call ‘The Woodland Way,’ rising to the top in everything,” he said. “Dylynn gives her best at everything she does. She’s currently enrolled in two honors classes, Algebra I and physical science, and making A’s in all classes, by the way, as of today. And she plays two sports, softball and basketball.”
John Howard, president of the Bartow Education Foundation and chairman of the Bartow County School Board, said the foundation was excited to be part of what the school system is calling Project REACH, for which Susan Morris is the acting coordinator.
“OK, we’re supporting the kids; we’re getting them in the classroom; we’re getting them to learn, and now we want to help them a little bit once they leave our school system,” he said. “We think that’s very important. That’s why we were happy when Dr. Harper came and said, ‘Hey, we want to be a REACH Georgia school system.’”
Howard also said foundation and school officials are really excited that this group of scholars would be Bartow County’s first Project REACH graduates.
“The other thing that we’re excited about is that this is an opportunity for you to become successful, and that’s what we’re here for,” he said. “... Our job is graduation. I say a lot of times that we get judged by that. In the paper this week, you’ll see that our graduations are increasing. [REACH, BCCCA and the one-to-one laptop conversion] are all things that we’re doing to make this school system better, and we’re so excited as a foundation to be a part of that.”