Rachel Wong, Cohort 2011 I
Tell us your name and what years you were enrolled in Reach for Excellence…
Rachel Wong, Cohort I – class of 2011
Tell us the story about how you came to Reach for Excellence…
I heard about Reach from a teacher back when I was in sixth grade at International Community School. School back then was too easy for me, so my mom and I thought Reach would a good opportunity for me and a productive way to spend summer breaks.
What memories from the program stand out to you?
Two things stood out to me the most. Reach not only exposed me to dedicated teachers, it also exposed me to a wide variety of environments. My first field trip back in summer of 2009 was to the studios of FOX 5 Atlanta, and I remember many field trips after that. All of these opportunities exposed me to a wide spectrum of jobs that I could do and people that I would have never encountered, like a Holocaust survivor from the Breman Museum.
What class or part of Reach was the most challenging for you?
Back when I was at Reach, Reach buses were still relatively new, so transportation was also an issue for many students during Saturday sessions. My mom used to drive me and 3 friends of mine to Marist on Saturdays, and the car broke down once on Marist’s campus. Reach teachers helped my mom fix the car while Ms. Dessables made sure us four weren’t causing trouble 🙂 This memory still sticks with me to this day because it truly shows that Reach cares more than the academic success of its students.
What would you like current Reach for Excellence students to know?
Take advantage of the resources you have available to you: ask your teachers questions, reach out to Reach alumni if you’re curious about their lives, encourage each other to do their best. Reach is a community. We take care of each other and are here for each other through the thick and thin.
Tell us about your journey after Reach for Excellence…
Reach made me consider independent schools as an option, so after Reach I went to The Lovett School for high school then matriculated into Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I received a degree in International Studies in May 2019. Afterward, I accepted a one-year Fulbright grant and co-taught English in Taiwan. I am now working as a Project Assistant at the National Democratic Institute before entering graduate school for international affairs.
What did you learn in Reach that has stayed with you?
Be a lifelong learner and learn to advocate for yourself. I was always a shy and quiet student at school, and Reach created a comfortable environment for me to ask questions about the content I was learning and speak up for myself. Reach exposes students to lots of opportunities but it is our responsibility to take the next step and make use of those opportunities.
“What is one thing about Reach for Excellence you hope will never change?”
Making sure that students are well-rounded. While academics are important, it is also not the end-all-be-all. Recreational periods are necessary for healthy development and a good brain break. I also like that Reach lowers the barriers that prevent students from applying/attending, such as MARTA fares and buses.
If you could speak to a donor right now, what would you want to say or want them to know about supporting Reach for Excellence?
Every student and every child has immense potential. Reach provides the nurturing environment and resources for the students to reach their full potential. Without Reach, I would have never considered non-traditional jobs. I didn’t know jobs that existed outside of doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Fast forward 9 years, even though I’m constantly caught in a new set of stressors nowadays, I constantly remind myself that 14-year-old Rachel back in 2011 would be so proud to see what I have achieved now as a 23-year-old.