Three Henderson Middle Schoolers have signed on to be among the class of 2023’s REACH Georgia scholars.

Eighth-graders NaKeyviean Lyons, Rachel Williams and Reagan Jackson each accepted the chance to receive a $10,000 scholarship upon graduation from high school. They were joined by family members Oct. 23 during a signing ceremony in the gym of Henderson Middle School.

The REACH Georgia scholarship program began in 2012 with a $250,000 donation by AT&T. Under the program, which is administered by the Georgia Student Finance Authority, school districts must raise a portion of the $10,000 scholarship for each student through local donations.

In Butts County’s case, the local match is $2,500 per student. The REACH program provides the remainder of the $10,000 award. The amount each participating community must raise is based on the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ jobs tax credit tier list.

Butts County joined the program in 2015 and each year has signed three new eighth-graders onto its roster of REACH Georgia scholars. The first Butts County cohort of three REACH scholars are now juniors at Jackson High School.

To receive the scholarship following their senior year of high school, REACH Georgia scholars must sign a contract, along with their parents or guardians, to maintain a 2.5 grade-point average throughout their academic career. They must also remain crime- and drug-free and exhibit good behavior. Scholars must also meet with a volunteer mentor and academic coach until they graduate from high school.

Henderson Middle School Principal Caressa Tanner Gordon said the purpose of the REACH scholarship is to increase the number of Georgians graduating with post-secondary degrees by 2025.

“REACH Georgia’s mission is to ensure Georgia’s low-income, academically promising students have the academic, social and financial support needed to graduate,” she said.

Butts County School System Superintendent Robert “Buddy” Costley emphasized the importance of the role the families of REACH scholars play in helping students in the REACH program.

“It’s not just about the REACH kids, it’s about the REACH families,” he said. “As you’re going to hear later, we’re going to have the families make a commitment too.”

That commitment involves attending REACH events, and contacting academic coaches and mentors about any issues that may arise in their child’s academic career.

Costley noted that while HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships help students get to college, they don’t cover all of the costs and too many students return home after the first year because they can’t afford to stay.

“This scholarship is all about not having to come back home in year two,” he said.

REACH Georgia enrolled 31 new school systems this academic year and now has a roster of 134 participating school districts across the state.

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Michael Davis has been the editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus since 2010. He previously worked as an editor and reporter for the Henry Daily Herald and Clayton News-Daily.