A’Mya Babbs, Corbin Blackwelder, Makiya Brinson and Kiy’Asia Green received signed documents Oct. 30.

Four Thomson-McDuffie Middle School students and their families embarked on an educational investment journey Oct. 30 as the eighth graders signed an accountability agreement to receive a college scholarship after high school graduation.

The four academically-promising students --A'Mya Babbs,  Makiya Brinson, Corbin Blackwelder and Kiy’Asia Green -- and their families, made commitments to REACH forward by agreeing to maintain a high school GPA of 2.5, go to classes, maintain good behavior in school and in the community, and remain crime and drug-free. The commitments in the form of signed contracts were made in exchange for a $10,000 scholarship payable over four years after graduating from Thomson High School.

The Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen (REACH) scholarship signing ceremony occurred in the media center at Thomson-McDuffie Middle School. The REACH scholarship is a needs-based scholarship that begins in eighth grade. The students will be paired with a mentor and academic coach throughout high school and families agree to work with educators to promote healthy relationships.

REACH Georgia, launched in 2012, rewards students for academic accountability in 154 school systems, including McDuffie County.    Schools Superintendent Mychele Rhodes told the students, parents and the audience that it was important that McDuffie’s school system be a REACH system because students who desire to go to college should not be hindered by the lack of finance. “This is a way of ensuring that opportunity,” she said.

Chick-fil-A, Two State Construction, First United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church are the community partners that granted the four students a $1,500 REACH scholarship to college, a scholarship that is matched with $8,500 from the REACH Foundation.  

Brinson received a scholarship from Thomson Chick-fil-A; Blackwelder from Two State Construction; Green from Thomson First United Methodist Church; and Babbs from First Baptist Church.

“We are here to celebrate our students and the awesome opportunities these four have been awarded,” said Thomson-McDuffie Middle School Principal Barry Joiner.   He championed their commitment to follow a rigorous path to receive their scholarship upon graduation.

McDuffie County Board of Education Chairman Andy Knox proclaimed the signing as a day of excitement for the parents and the school system. “Obviously this is a tremendous opportunity for these young people,” he said.

The college scholarships may be used at institutions of the Technical College System of Georgia or the University System of Georgia as well as private colleges. Many participating colleges match the scholarship, and some will double the match.

According to Knox, the $1,500 scholarships from the community partners, with a multiplier effect, is immediately matched by state and private funding to the extent of $8,500, which totals $10,000. In addition, the State of Georgia institutions that are HOPE Scholarship qualified, could match that money with another $10,000, which then increases to $20,000.

“This isn’t smoke and mirrors,” Knox said. “This is real life,” he said. The four students could also be eligible to receive a $6,0000 Pell Grant from the federal government.

“The initial $1,500 that you folks helped with over the four years can grow to $64,000,” Knox said. “This would not have happened had you not stepped up to the plate and agreed to make that initial investment in these young people.”

Turning to the four students, Knox reiterated the opportunity REACH is providing them. “It will be up to you to accept the responsibilities to receive these financial benefits,” he said.

Speaking to the four REACH Scholars by video, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp told them that they are making an important commitment. “Today’s ceremony is the beginning of a journey. Your REACH Scholarship puts you in the fast lane on the road to the future of success. I look forward to watching you accelerate into that future,” Kemp said.

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