HOUSTON COUNTY, Ga. — Kayla Shumway's 5th grade students remind her of the days she grew up in the Houston County School system.

"[I] started at Russell Elementary, went to Quail Run, Feagin Mill, graduated at Houston County High, came back and now I work in a Title 1 school, which is kind of where I started with with my educational career," Shumway said.

She has a personal understanding of her students' needs.

"A lot of the issues that we tend to have with our kids coming to school either without breakfast, without money for lunch, those are things that we've worked very hard with our principal and different grants to provide for them," she said.

"A Title 1 school is a school that serves a population of low-income, low socioeconomic students," said Tucker Elementary principal Eddie Williams.

Williams credits their state Reward recognition with providing resources like free breakfast and lunch, having a washer and dryer for families to use, and offering individual academic support.

"We try to take care of the whole child: social, emotional, physical and academic," she said.

"Normally we'll look back at the beginning of the year and we'll look back at 4th grade and see what are you missing from 4th grade? What do we need to make sure we fill in before we move on," Shumway said.

Title 1 schools that receive Reward recognition significantly improved their college and career readiness performance scores over a year's time. 

Tucker Elementary went from a 72% in 2018 to an 84% in 2019.

"There's not really a lot of support for some of these kids so [it's] just making sure you support them along the way, but once they're there, they're good to go," Shumway said.

"What it means to all of us is more than a score or a reward, it's the fact that we made a difference in a child's life," Williams said.

The Reward designation honors the top 5% of Title 1 schools in Georgia that showed the greatest improvement.

Centerville, Eagle Springs and Morningside Elementary Schools in Houston County were also honored as Reward schools.

Lakeview Primary in Baldwin County, Jones County High School and Johnson County Elementary School were also honored as Reward schools.

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