Our Program

Our Program2021-10-15T15:15:51-04:00

Reach for Excellence offers students of limited income a mix of academic, cultural, and community-based experiences that prepares them for the challenges of college-preparatory programs and high schools.

Reach for Excellence students learn from adults who are caring mentors and they are surrounded by friends who share their desire to succeed. Reach for Excellence students attend middle schools throughout the Metro Atlanta area. The program requires hard work, commitment, and discipline. Students are ready to commit to three years of rigorous academics and leadership training, and they demonstrate the potential to achieve academically and the determination to succeed in life.

Though Reach for Excellence students are academically talented, they need not be from gifted programs in their middle schools. However, Reach for Excellence is not a remedial program. In order to be eligible for the program, students must come from households with incomes of no more than $50,000 per year.

When is the program?2019-08-15T12:16:22-04:00

Reach for Excellence takes place during the student’s sixth, seventh, and eighth grade years. It includes both weekend and summer sessions.

      • Sixth grade Saturday sessions (about every other week late August through late April, 16 Saturdays)
      • Summer session #1 (six weeks)
      • Seventh grade Saturday sessions (16 Saturdays)
      • Summer session #2 (six weeks)
      • Eighth grade Saturday sessions (16 Saturdays)
      • Summer session #3 (six weeks)

Summer sessions begin in mid-June, following the close of schools in Metro Atlanta.


Who is eligible?2019-08-15T12:16:59-04:00

In order to be eligible, students must

      • Be in the 5th grade
      • Commit to three years of rigorous academics and leadership enrichment
      • Demonstrate the potential to achieve academically and the determination to succeed in life
      • Come from families with limited opportunities and resources  (at or under $50K/household)

Admission is selective; about 36 students are accepted into each cohort of 6th graders.

What makes Reach for Excellence unique?2019-08-15T12:17:42-04:00

Reach for Excellence is a three-year, tuition-free enrichment program that prepares middle school students to compete for college prep programs. Certified teachers equip students with the tools they need to succeed in high school and stay on the path to college.

What are classes like?2019-08-15T13:38:17-04:00

Class sizes at Reach for Excellence are small, averaging 12 students per class. These smaller classes allow for more one-on-one instruction. Courses are supplemented by community service projects, curriculum-based field trips, and opportunities to study topics in greater detail, integrating academic skills with life experiences.

Where are the classes held?2019-08-15T13:39:01-04:00

Reach for Excellence is hosted by Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia.

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30319

Is Reach for Excellence a religious program?2019-08-15T13:39:44-04:00

No. Reach for Excellence was founded by the Society of Mary, the order of priests and brothers who also own Marist School. Reach for Excellence does not offer religious instruction and students of all faiths are welcome. However, students and their families must be comfortable in a Catholic environment.

What about transportation?2019-08-15T13:40:13-04:00

If a student does not have access to private transportation, the Reach for Excellence staff will work with each family to ensure that their child is able to get to and from the program. Arrangements may include riding MARTA, carpooling, or meeting one of our buses at a designated pickup location. With each new cohort, the Reach for Excellence leadership coordinates a custom route of pickup locations so that it can accommodate as many families as possible.

What does Reach for Excellence expect from the students’ families?2019-08-15T13:41:07-04:00

Reach for Excellence expects that the program is a priority for every family it serves. The program requires a three year commitment from students, as well as their parents or guardians. Parents and guardians are expected to attend summer registrations, as well as high school options meetings (8th grade). Reach for Excellence also expects parents to work with its staff to explore and evaluate high school options available to their children.

Does Reach for Excellence charge tuition?2019-08-15T13:41:58-04:00

No. Reach for Excellence is tuition-free. It is supported entirely by donated funds and grants.

What do students do for meals during the summer program?2019-08-15T13:42:37-04:00

Reach for Excellence provides breakfast and lunch during the summer program as well as lunch during the Saturday sessions.

What if my child plays sports or has other activities during the summer and on Saturdays?2019-08-15T13:43:20-04:00

The Reach for Excellence Attendance policy requires that all students attend 90% of classes during both the summer program and Saturday sessions. Applying students and families must decide if they will be willing to choose Reach for Excellence over other activities.

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The Reach for Excellence curriculum focuses on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills in several core areas: language arts, mathematics, and social studies. Reach exposes students to concepts, ideas, and models of thinking that prepare them for challenging college-preparatory programs and high schools. The program encourages interdisciplinary projects and activities.


Reach for Excellence teachers use placement tests to evaluate the level of each student’s mathematical ability. The goal of the Reach for Excellence mathematics program is to help its students to become proficient first in algebra, then in geometry.

As it does in all courses, Reach for Excellence encourages its teachers to create interdisciplinary projects in math classes.  In one recent math class, students created personal brochures that included a poem about the importance of mathematics, as well as word problems that related directly to their lives. In other math classes, students combined math and science skills to build solar ovens and newspaper towers that were strong enough to support a baseball.

Language Arts

The Reach for Excellence language arts program is designed to build three essential skills: reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills. The language arts program includes a required book club whose reading list is similar to those used in college prep high schools.

Social Studies

The Reach for Excellence social studies program, like language arts, is designed to improve students’ skills in reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills, while focusing on world and current events. The Reach for Excellence social studies program also integrates current events into classroom work.

Test Prep

Reach for Excellence uses various assessment tools to measure student progress. Among those tools is the SSAT  (Secondary School Admissions Test), the admission exam required by most independent schools. Teachers devote one hour of each Saturday session to preparing students for the SSAT.

The SSAT measures Reach for Excellence scholars against peers who are competing for college prep high schools. It also identifies areas in which students may need additional help. Reach for Excellence scholars take the SSAT at least once during the eighth grade and Enrollment Management Association generously provides vouchers to cover the cost of these exams.

Supplemental Learning

To deepen the students’ intellectual curiosity beyond traditional academic subjects, Reach for Excellence offers electives in the areas of visual arts, performing arts, etiquette, physical fitness, and business. During summer sessions, off-campus field experiences complement and enhance core and elective coursework.

 Prior Reach for Excellence field trips have included:

  • Visits to other independent schools
  • Visits to colleges and universities
  • The Warner Robins Museum of Aviation
  • Dahlonega Indian Mounds
  • FDR’s Little White House
  • CNN world headquarters
  • The Wren’s Nest
  • Bremen Museum
  • Zoo Atlanta’s Overnight Program

During Saturday sessions there are no off-campus field trips. However, speakers come to the program to complement in-class learning. Examples of guest speakers include Mary Ann Rodman, who wrote Yankee Girl, and Sheila P. Moses, author of Legend of Buddy Bush.

Reach for Excellence scholars also receive ongoing instruction in how to study, perform research, and organize their work.


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