REACH scholars

Five Colquitt County students signed contracts with the state's REACH Scholarship Program Thursday at Willie J. Williams Middle School. Seated from left are Eu'nijah Bodiford, Rut Labrada, Kayla Moore, Zoe Parish and Lynn Vandiver. Behind them are their parents, who also had to sign the contract, and other family members.

MOULTRIE, Ga. — Five Colquitt County eighth graders signed contracts Thursday to get good grades and attendance, to meet with mentors and academic coaches and to graduate from high school and pursue postsecondary education. In return, the State of Georgia will provide them $2,500 per year toward four years of college or technical education.

REACH Georgia is a needs-based scholarship launched five years ago by Gov. Nathan Deal. Thursday’s event began with a video welcome from Deal and his wife, Sandra, who is herself a former educator.

The event was held at the middle school because this year’s REACH Scholars — Eu’nijah Bodiford, Rut Labrada, Kayla Moore, Zoe Parish and Lynn Vandiver — were chosen last year when they were in seventh grade. This year’s seventh graders were present at the signing ceremony so they could see those scholars’ success and prepare now to be in next year’s class.

The REACH Georgia program grew out of the state’s expected need for more college and technical school graduates. By 2025, more than 60 percent of the jobs in the state will require a post-secondary degree, according to a statement from Gov. Deal that was read at the ceremony by state Rep. Sam Watson.

REACH Georgia began as a two-year pilot program in 2012 with five school systems — Rabun, Douglas, Dodge, Quitman and Bulloch counties — according to the website reachga.org.

Today, REACH serves 134 school systems, Colquitt County School Superintendent Doug Howell said. In all, it has reached more than 1,800 students.

The five students recognized Wednesday are Colquitt County’s second class of REACH Scholars.

• Eu’nijah Bodiford, daughter of Chazna Thomas and Ricardo Bodiford.

• Rut Labrada, daughter of Marcos Labrada.

• Kayla Moore, daughter of Larry Moore.

• Zoe Parish, daughter of Takai Hose.

• Lynn Vandiver, daughter of Shanna Benton and stepdaughter of Charles Benton Jr.

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