Reach for Excellence adapts to serve students
Like all educational institutions, Reach for Excellence pivoted to continue providing service during COVID-19. We know that the need for academic and social engagement has never been greater, especially for students from families who lack financial resources and attend school in low-income neighborhoods. We remained committed to providing our academic enrichment program despite the challenges.
Reach teachers are certified educators, serving in public and private schools throughout the metro Atlanta area. We benefited from their experience with online learning at the onset of school closures in March. They rose to the challenge and were able to smoothly launch an organized online program for Reach for Excellence’s summer session beginning in June.
Even though we couldn’t meet in our classrooms, summer classes were full of meaningful learning opportunities. Teachers took students on over ten virtual field trips to museums and important cultural sites around the world. Ms. Cheffen’s Girl Talk group met each week to give our students a healthy space to process their thoughts and emotions in response to the pandemic and social unrest. Mr. Michaud’s Coding and STEAM classes remained as rigorous as ever, taking on new relevance in an all-digital learning environment. Students were still able to work with each other in teams, even though they were physically apart. Yonas, a first-year Reach student, shared with us that “even though it was online, it was still fun.” Teachers took advantage of the ubiquitous use of videoconferencing to host several guest speakers. Our students met online with attorneys, financial consultants, language specialists, and more.
Reach for Excellence also recognized the increased financial burden COVID-19 has brought to the families we serve. Our staff worked diligently to ensure that every child had access to a device adequate for live-streamed online learning. We provided Chromebooks for students who needed them. Twice this summer, we invited families to our campus at Marist School for a Reach Cares Drive-by, where we provided families with Wal-mart Gift cards and show them our love and support.
Reach scholars persisted through it all. Attendance in online classes remained strong. On August 1st, 29 rising 9th-grade students graduated from our three-year program. These tenacious young people are now enrolled in prestigious college prep programs throughout Atlanta, including Marist School, Cristo Rey, St. Pious X, and Our Lady of Mercy.
We will continue to provide programming on our scheduled 16 Saturday Sessions throughout the school, in a hybrid classroom format. Our students can count on us. Our teachers and staff remain committed to providing a tuition-free academic and leadership program to help talented young leaders, from families with limited resources, on their path to success in high school and beyond.