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These Gainesville students just got a leg up on their education
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From left, Aiden Salgado, Rosendlynn Jyaireth Flores and Dana Montiel were announced as Gainesville City Schools’ REACH scholars on Monday, Oct. 7.

A brighter path has been paved for three Gainesville Middle School students. 

Aiden Saldago, Rosendlynn Jyaireth Flores and Dana Montiel were announced as this year’s Gainesville REACH scholars during a signing ceremony on Monday, Oct. 8. 

REACH Georgia is a needs-based mentorship and scholarship program that starts in the eighth grade. It is designed to ensure that academically promising students have the proper support needed to graduate from high school and complete college, according to the program’s description

Misty Freeman, principal at Gainesville Middle, said a group of Gainesville students were nominated last school year by their seventh-grade teachers. Those who filled out applications and met the state-set criteria, were interviewed by a panel of community members. 

The panel then selected the three REACH scholars. 

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Dana Montiel, middle, signs a commitment form to become one of Gainesville City Schools’ REACH scholars.

“We have a lot of successful kids,” Freeman said. “But these three have been with us since kindergarten. They are truly products of Gainesville City Schools.”

The scholarship contract requires exceptional behavior and attendance through middle and high school and a 2.5 grade-point average. If the students complete the program and graduate from high school, they’re awarded a $10,000 scholarship that can be used at any HOPE-eligible institution in Georgia. 

Freeman said this is the third year Gainesville City Schools has presented the scholarship. 

As a part of the program, each of the three students will have an academic coach and mentor. 

The REACH Scholars chose their teachers as academic coaches, including Jane Reed, Iris Butts and Alexandra Dalton. While the academic coaches will change once the students enter high school, the mentors will remain the same. 

The mentors — Enrique Grana Jr., Shannon Parris and Gwenell Brown — come from the district’s partner, Center Point. Freeman said the mentors act as role models for the students, helping them with projects or simply being there to answer life advice. 

This year’s REACH scholars have already expressed a desire to attend the University of Georgia.

Through the scholarship program, the three will go on a field trip and visit UGA’s campus. 

“We have very intentional activities planned for them because they have aspirations to go to college,” Freeman said. “They get to put their feet on campus and walk around, it just gives them that experience.”

Freeman said she will never forget one student, who was named a REACH scholar last year. 

She was a school athlete and lived with her grandmother. Freeman watched as the student flourished academically and emotionally, as her mentor came out week after week to show their support.

“And her mentor is still there for her,” Freeman said. “That’s what it’s all about. She just had an opportunity that I’m not sure she would have in any other way.”