Genie Arcila, Cohort 2006 D

Tell us the story about how you came to Reach for Excellence…

I enrolled in Reach for Eexcellence because my brother was already in the program after a teacher had recommended him for it.

What memories from Reach for Excellence stand out to you?

I remember when RFE took us on college tours. I had always heard about the idea of college and people believed that it was in my future. But as a person of color, I didn’t see myself at school or in my teachers. When I went on the tours with RFE and other Reach scholars, I got excited about college and actually began to believe that it was in my future.

What aspect of Reach for Excellence was the most challenging for you?

At Reach, we were encouraged to take classes that we may not usually take. I think that pushing myself out of my comfort zone was the most challenging part. I didn’t always immediately excel in the classes, but I was taught perseverance. I also learned about the things that ignited my passion and the things that did not. In the end, this skill has allowed me to excel in my personal life and professional career.

What would you like current Reach for Excellence students to know?

You do not have to follow a prescribed path in life. Oftentimes, you might feel like you aren’t good enough, but listen to your heart and believe in yourself.

Tell us about your journey after Reach for Excellence.

After graduating from RFE and high school, I attended Emory University where I majored in Political Science and minored in French. After graduating from Emory, I spent a year teaching in a small French village. I returned to the U.S. and entered the field of education as a Teach for America Corps member. I taught kindergarten-2nd grade general education and ESL. I then joined the team at Teach for America Memphis as a Director for First year experience/Leadership Coach. While in Memphis, I was also a community organizer where I successfully helped start a community organization that pushed the school district to expand language access by printing report cards in Spanish. Last year, I returned to Atlanta and the classroom. I serve as a Dual Language Immersion educator (Spanish) in Atlanta.

What did you learn in Reach for Excellence that has stayed with you?

Learning expands beyond the classroom. I can take ownership of my own learning as long as resources exist. As a young student, that resource was Reach for Excellence.

What is one thing about Reach for Excellence you hope will never change?

The desire to push students to learn knowledge and skills that are not typically taught in schools.

If you could speak to a Reach for Excellence supporter right now, what would you say?

We all have a role to play in education and educating our students. For BIPOC or low-income students, it is also our responsibility to take action that will create pathways to success. It is not enough for students to be motivated to learn and succeed, we need to invest in resources in our community. And you can be part of this action.