CONYERS — Five Rockdale County middle school students committed to a program that could earn them a $10,000 scholarship for college.
The five students, Tae’Jon Bailey of Davis Middle School, Shariden Bezer, Dyson Lewis and Angela Ruvalcaba of Conyers Middle School and Alayna Crutchfield of Edwards Middle School, signed with the REACH Georgia program on Tuesday at a ceremony at Rockdale Career Academy.
The students are eligible to earn a $10,000 scholarship, to be used at any post-secondary institution in the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia or any eligible private post-secondary institution. That scholarship is contingent on the students maintaining a 2.5 GPA, as well as high standards for behavior and attendance.
April Fallon, Rockdale County Public Schools’ director of community and student support and the REACH coordinator, said she has been looking forward to Tuesday for a number of months.
“I’m just so thrilled that our students have this opportunity,” Fallon said. “Just thinking about your journey over the next five years is incredible.”
Fallon called the REACH, or Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen, program a strategic investment in youth in the state, a program championed by Gov. Nathan Deal, to help economically disadvantaged children receive an opportunity to go to a post-secondary education.
Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal addressed the students via a video.
“The heights you can achieve are only limited by how far you’re willing to go,” Gov. Deal said in the video. “Don’t quit reaching when you complete the requirements of the contracts you sign today. This program is a launching pad for your successful futures. We wish you the best of luck in all of your endeavors, and remember, Georgia is counting on you.”
In addition to the scholarship, the five REACH students will be partnered with academic help to keep them on track to earn the scholarship.
“Starting this year, in the eighth grade, they will receive a mentor that will meet with them weekly and an academic coach that will meet with them monthly, just helping them stay on track, stay focused and stay motivated,” Fallon said. “When they graduate from eighth grade, they will have that same opportunity in high school, people will link them with people in the building that will help them.”
For the students, the scholarship represented hope for college, a hope that might not have existed without the REACH program.
“It means I have a brighter future and I can go to college,” said Beazer. “It motivates me a lot because I know I have someone that can push me when I get down and think I can’t do it.”
“Well, for me, I’m extremely proud of her,” said Mariette Beazer, Shariden’s mother. “She gets to do something we didn’t have a chance to do. We’ll be behind her, and it’s absolutely a great help. We might not be been able to afford this.”
Tae’Jon Bailey was happy for the opportunity, mentioning potentially crippling student loans that he might face without it.
“I’m excited for the scholarship because I’ve heard about student debt, and I don’t think I’m ready for it,” Bailey said. “It will definitely keep me pushing, knowing that I have the money there to go to a post secondary institution.”
“I believe, for him, it’s going to mean he can access college no matter what,” said Bailey’s mother, Delisha. “He can focus on his studies and not so much stress about how am I going to pay for it, am I going to be able to go next semester, what am I going to have to do to make sure you have a better education, you can focus on school, you can get things done and not have to worry about money.”
“Not having to worry about having to pay for it is the best part,” Delisha said.
The program will be funded partially by the state and by the Rockdale County Public Schools Foundation in the future, but this year, the state of Georgia is fully funding the five students.
Next year, the RCPS Foundation will fund $3,500 per student, while the state will fund $6,500. According to Kysa Daniels, executive director of the RCPS Foundation, the program next year will provide two additional students with this scholarship, unless they have a “gangbuster year,” as she put it, and is able to fund the maximum of five students in the program.
For more information on how to donate to the RCPS Foundation, visit their website at www.rcpsfoundation.com.