Five Bartow County middle school students have been given an opportunity that could very well cover the entire cost of their college education.
Julian Trollinger from Adairsville Middle, Emma Downey from Cass Middle, Jorden Edens and Tyreana Sims from Red Top Middle and Rakaylin Glover from Woodland Middle have made commitments to work toward a post-secondary education after being named 2019 REACH Georgia Scholars.
The eighth-graders and their parents/guardians signed letters of commitment during the Bartow County School System’s Third Annual REACH Georgia Signing Day Celebration Thursday night 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.
Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen, one of former 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 a Georgia college, university or technical college that will match it or to $30,000 if they attend an institution that will double-match it.
At the ceremony, Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page welcomed everyone to the commitment signing for the REACH Class of 2024.
“I just want to welcome everyone tonight as we recognize five of our outstanding eighth-graders who will be moving on to do great things,” he said. “This is a big deal. Not everyone gets to sign a commitment. This is right up there with a college [sports] scholarship, picking where you want to go play football, basketball, baseball, softball, whatever it may be. You are putting on a [high school] hat tonight … and we can’t wait to see the great things that you will do.”
REACH Georgia Coordinator Kristy Mitchell explained the selection process the school system used to find this year’s scholars.
The new cohort was chosen last spring after counselors from each middle school submitted a list of four seventh-graders who met the scholarship program’s criteria for grades, attendance and behavior.
Those students completed an application and were interviewed at the central office by school staff and business members before being selected to join nine other REACH Georgia Scholars already admitted into the program.
Guest speaker Dr. Don Green, president of Georgia Highlands College, congratulated the scholars on this “amazing opportunity” and explained “a little bit of why it is such an opportunity.”
He told them that people who have a bachelor’s degree will, on average, earn $1.1 million more in income over their lifetime than people with only a high school diploma.
“What could you do with a million extra dollars over a lifetime?” he said. “It’s amazing.”
But research has shown the rewards of having a college degree are more than just financial, Green said.
“Some of the things that college degree recipients have – they have higher marital rates; they have longer life spans; they donate more money; they donate more blood; they are less likely to be incarcerated; they’re far more likely to be employed; they’re far more likely to have a home that they own,” he said. “The opportunities continue to just go on and on and on. Those opportunities are available to every one of these students.”
As an example, Green said REACH recipients who choose to earn a $16,000 bachelor’s degree from GHC will have it paid in full when they graduate because the college matches their scholarship, making it worth $20,000.
“That is one degree, completely paid for,” he said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity.”
Green also said the scholarships will help Bartow County’s economy continue to grow as it has been the past few years.
“We are incredibly blessed, but we will only be blessed if we have talent available to feed the labor market to keep that economy going,” he said. “Where will that talent come from? From educating students coming out of Bartow schools, going to various colleges across Georgia, completing the degree, coming back here and getting the opportunity to be employed across this county. This is good for all of us.”
Page then listed the requirements scholars have to meet to hold up their end of the deal: maintaining at least a 2.5 cumulative grade-point average, having good attendance and behavior, staying drug-free and crime-free, meeting twice a month with their assigned mentor and once a month with their academic coach, attending REACH events, meetings and programs, engaging in activities that prepare them for college and graduating from high school and from a Georgia HOPE-eligible post-secondary institution.
Surrounded by their middle school principals and future high school principals, the scholars signed their commitment contracts then passed the pen to their parents/guardians for their signatures.
"Signing Day is always exciting because our students are being rewarded for their hard work at an early age,” Mitchell said. “I’m already very proud of our 14 scholars who have made the commitment to be part of our REACH Georgia program. They’re role models to their classmates and have many opportunities ahead of them.”
Tyreana, 13, daughter of Monaya and William Hall of Acworth, was thrilled to receive a scholarship that will help her become a teacher.
“I’m very thankful and grateful, and I’m actually really happy I got it,” the future Woodland High student said.
Jorden, 13, who also will attend Woodland, was shocked that she was nominated as a REACH Scholar.
“I think it’s amazing,” said the daughter of Leann Comeau of Emerson, noting she hopes to go into the medical field.
Emma, 14-year-old daughter of Megan and Michael Downey of White, also was shocked that she was named a scholar.
“I think it might get me into a good college, get me into a good job,” said the future Cass High student, who wants to be a veterinarian.
Julian, 14, son of Janice and Dale Trichell of Rydal, said he was “happy” about the scholarship, but he has “not a clue” what he wants to do in the future.
Mitchell said the new scholars are “great” and “excited.”
“They’re already involved in a lot of different things,” she said. “We have some of them in sports. Some of them are interested in looking at the career academy in the future. Not sure exactly what they want to do but definitely excited, and they have the support of their family, which is amazing.”
Page said he, too, is “so excited for them.”
“These are students who have an opportunity that many students do not get, and that’s an opportunity for support through high school to make sure they do as well as they can and then to get to college, to graduate college and to have no school debt when they get out,” he said.
The 7-year-old REACH Georgia program serves nearly 1,800 scholars in more than 150 school systems across the state and has committed more than $22 million in scholarships.