While National Signing Day has become a big event for high school senior athletes signing college letters of intent, a “signing day” ceremony of a different sort was held for 19 eighth and ninth graders on Nov. 10 at Atlanta Metropolitan State College. As REACH scholars, all 19 students have pledged to work hard, maintain good grades, and receive mentoring throughout middle and high school, making them eligible to receive $10,000 college scholarships.
The following scholars were selected as Atlanta Public Schools’ REACH Georgia scholars for the Class of 2025 and the Class of 2026:
Class of 2025 REACH Scholars:
Simone Corbin, KIPP Collegiate Academy
Naija Dubose, CSKYWLA
Everett Dunham, BEST Academy
Aaliyah Edwards, Maynard Jackson HS
Jenaya Gaines, Frederick Douglass HS
Tiara Poole, Booker T. Washington HS
Ashiya Walker, Midtown HS
Anai Wilkins, Maynard Jackson HS
Class of 2026 REACH Scholars:
Reyna De’Vega-Matamoros, CSKYWLA
Aaliyah Echols, Kindezi West
Pekahiah Henderson, Crawford Long MS
Hilton McGill, KIPP STRIVE Academy
Carlos Montalvo, Martin Luther King Jr. MS
Nevaeh Robinson, John Lewis Invictus Academy
Xavier Shabazz, Ralph Bunch MS
Koya Smith, Sylvan Hills MS
Marley Taylor, HJ Russell West End Academy
Kristian Turner, Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School
Matthew Weldegaber, Centennial Academy
The REACH, or Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen Program, was launched as a pilot program during the 2011-2012 academic year. REACH is a need-based youth development and scholarship program with specific financial, academic, and behavior eligibility requirements that begins in eighth grade.
The program increases academic persistence and achievement of Georgia’s middle and high school students and to increase college access and success for Georgia’s low-income and underserved populations. Private and public donations fund the scholarships. Scholars who successfully complete the 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.
“As scholarship recipients, these students will receive $10,000 to $30,000 to attend any eligible in-state college or university after graduating from high school,” said College and Career Readiness Coordinator Dr. Kenya Gilliard. “We are extremely proud of these students for their accomplishments and welcome them to our APS REACH Community of Scholars.”
This month’s REACH Scholarship Signing Ceremony program featured welcoming remarks by Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring and acknowledgements by Lynne Riley, president of Georgia Student Finance Commission, the organization responsible for financing the students’ scholarships.
“The journey that’s before you requires commitment, dedication and hard work,” Dr. Herring told students during the ceremony. “But here’s the statement I want you to hear: You can do hard things … You can do hard things.”
Students like Kristian Turner and Everett Dunham are ready to work hard, and said they’re excited about the opportunity to receive a college scholarship and mentoring to help them become even better students.
“Being a REACH Georgia scholar means that I’m going to reach for the stars and make sure that I exceed my goal and meet even higher expectations, because it has inspired me to be better and better since being here,” said Kristian, a ninth grader at Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School.
Everett is just as excited about being selected as a REACH scholar.
“A REACH Georgia scholar is someone who’s going to do something with their life, go to college, and pursue post-secondary education,” said Everett, an eighth grader at BEST Academy. “And they’re someone who’s really wants to change the world.”