With their families by their sides, five eighth grade students from Dalton Middle School signed the paperwork committing to the Georgia REACH (Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen) Scholars program in a ceremony on Wednesday, December 9. Jennifer Diaz-Gonzalez, Angel Escobar-Raymundo, Kendrix London, Aracely Calderon and Tasia del Rosario make up the fifth class of Dalton's REACH Georgia Scholars.
Governor Nathan Deal launched the REACH Scholarship Program in 2012 as part of the Complete College Georgia Initiative. The mission of the REACH Program is to increase the academic persistence and achievement of Georgia's most academically promising middle and high school students.
Scholars who successfully complete the REACH program and graduate from high school are awarded a $10,000 scholarship ($2,500/year) that can be used at any HOPE-eligible institution in Georgia. A majority of Georgia colleges are matching or double matching this scholarship. The scholarship is in addition to any other grant or scholarship the student receives.
To remain eligible for the program throughout middle and high school, students must maintain a high GPA, remain drug and alcohol free, have good attendance and behavior and create educational and career plans.
Students are nominated during their seventh-grade year. Students then complete their applications, provide external references and parental commitments, and must finally go through an interview process before final selections are made.
Damaris Natola, counselor at Dalton Middle, acknowledges the significant academic challenges many have faced due to the unprecedented circumstances this year has given for many people. However, she feels proud of the students for achieving this extraordinary accomplishment.
"It was very encouraging to be able to see such great students getting recognized and celebrated," said Natola. "The self discipline, motivation and work ethic that each of our scholars have is commendable. It has been very inspiring to see each one of them shine."
Two out of the five REACH scholars participate in school sports outside of their studies. Del Rosario and London who participate in track and football elaborated on the importance of ensuring their academics comes first.
"We're student athletes so we have to make sure we're students first before anything else," said Del Rosario. "It's stressful at times but you just have to do what you have to do." said London.
Their advice to future REACH scholars is to never give up and stay on track so they can fulfill their ultimate end goals and dreams.
"You need to stay focused and take it seriously because it's very important." said Del Rosario.