Catching Up with Douglas County’s REACH Scholars

Where are they Now? Catching Up with Douglas County’s REACH 2012 Graduating Cohort
Posted on 06/07/2021
REACH Georgia

Governor Deal launched the first graduating class of the Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen (REACH) program in 2012. When it launched, it became Georgia's first public-private needs based scholarship opportunity with 100% of the funds raised going to college scholarships. The program offers academically promising middle school students with the knowledge, advice, guidance, and support needed to graduate high school and attend college with up to $10,000 in scholarship funds.

Since the program’s inception, Douglas County’s REACH Scholars have been graduating with the skills they need to succeed in college and beyond. They are quickly impacting their communities, proof that the REACH Scholars program is making a difference.  

Communities In Schools of Douglas County Executive Director Mitzi Teal caught up with members of the original REACH Graduating Cohort for an update on their time with their program and where life has taken them. 

Roda Kesete REACH Scholar

Roda Kesete graduated from Douglas County High School in 2017 as part of the original REACH graduating cohort. She entered Emory University that fall as a political science and Spanish double major. Now that she has completed her Emory undergraduate degree, Kesete will begin graduate coursework in global government in China next year as a Schwarzman Scholar. After that she will head to law school, and ultimately carve a career in public policy.  

“The REACH scholarship made a difference and played a big role in completing college,'' Kesete says. “The program’s foundation and sense of financial support has been very valuable during my college career. ” 

As a REACH scholar, Kesete worked with an academic coach and mentor who modeled positive behavior. This academic coach provides REACH scholars with knowledge, advice, guidance, and support related to education and beyond.

“My mentor throughout high school was a wonderful mentor and community supporter. This high school mentor was a community volunteer who would send check-in texts, emails, and reminders about important dates,” Kesete says. “This support system provided a sense of community. It was a network of people rooting for you. REACH was a significant experience for me,” Kesete adds. 


Josslyn Lally was also part of the 2012 REACH cohort and graduated from Douglas County High School. Like other REACH Scholars, she was identified in the 7th grade and began the program in 8th grade.

Lally will soon graduate from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. After graduation, she would like to pursue a career in research and development engineering.  

She describes the REACH program as a growing experience. “The REACH program  was helpful in high school. It helped me prepare for college and assisted me throughout college. It showed me the importance of mentoring. I will never forget the encouragement I received from all the people who make being a REACH scholar possible,” she adds. 

Additional members of the 2012 REACH Graduate Cohort: 

Amber Moreland New Manchester High School. Amber will soon graduate from Fort Valley State University with a degree in Biology. She plans to graduate school and become a midwife. She is currently giving back to her community by working as an intern at the Family Health Center of Georgia at the Douglas County School System’s School Based Health Clinic. 


Jazmine Blancas, Lithia Springs High School. Jazmine will graduate next year from Clayton State University with a Health Science Degree. 


Cole Blasczyk, Alexander High School. Cole is a University of West Georgia  May 2021 graduate. He graduated  with a degree in criminology and a forensic certification.  


Shiyenne Earley, New Manchester High School. Shiyenne is a  graduate of Health and Style Institute. Shiyenne is a health and beauty entrepreneur and has started her own skin care line.


Tafari Kennedy,  New Manchester High School. Tafari is a Georgia State University May 2021 Graduate in Sports Management. 


Superintendent Trent North salutes the success of all the Douglas County REACH Scholars. “I am so proud of each of our REACH scholars and the career paths they have chosen,” he says.  “REACH offers our students opportunities to succeed at every level and allows them to reach their highest potential.”



Teal agrees. She adds that the REACH Scholarship Program has offered Douglas County students, especially the first cohort, tremendous opportunities for success. “This first cohort of students has a special place in my heart! All nine of us, and their parents, had to navigate this new program as pioneers,” she says.


“I remember their graduation day and look back at the pride, excitement and hope they all had about their future,'' Teal says. “It is exhilarating to see their accomplishments in the postsecondary setting. I am proud of all their successes and I hope they can serve as role models for current scholars,” Teal adds.  


Teal adds that REACH scholars have to meet academic, behavioral and attendance criteria. Their parents also had to commit to a certain level of involvement to qualify to receive a $10,000 college scholarship. Qualifying REACH Scholars are awarded a financial scholarship upon graduation, with many colleges offering to match or double match the scholarship.   

Teal says that for REACH scholars, this additional support makes a difference.  

“The program is proof that dedication, support, and teamwork can make opportunities such as this scholarship a reality!”  


For more information about the REACH program in Douglas County please contact Mitzi Teal, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Douglas County at 770-651-2039, [email protected]  

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