Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Reach for Excellence grads continue to succeed

By GIGI MEYERS, Special to the Bulletin | Published August 24, 2017

Daniel Chandra

ATLANTA—For Daniel Chandra the path to applying to an internal medicine residency had its beginnings 16 years earlier as a student in the Reach for Excellence program, founded by the Society of Mary, and hosted by Marist School.

Reach for Excellence is a tuition-free, three-year academic enrichment program for underserved middle school students in metro Atlanta. Chandra’s experience at Reach was a steppingstone to attending high school at Marist, something he admits would not have been on his radar without Reach.

After a successful academic career at Marist, Chandra attended college at Yale University and is completing his fourth year at the Medical College of Georgia.

Chandra spent the past year researching the immunology of bone marrow transplantation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Following residency, he hopes to specialize in hematology and oncology where he has a specific interest in improving outcomes for bone marrow transplant recipients.

Aissatou Diallo

When asked to reflect on his Reach experience Chandra recalled, “Being a student and volunteering for Reach has given me the opportunity to meet truly inspiring people.”

Aissatou Diallo credits Reach for Excellence with becoming the first college graduate in her family. Diallo attended Tri-Cities High School and Georgia Southwestern State University, and is headed to Brenau University this fall. She is pursuing an MBA with a healthcare management concentration.

Diallo admits to being a shy child. As a first generation immigrant, her family faced language and cultural barriers that prevented her from having access to certain educational resources.

“Programs like Reach gave me the chance to stay ahead of the game when it came to getting ready for high school, and that is something I still apply to my personal, educational, and professional life today,” she said.

Derrick Lewis

Derrick Lewis attended Druid Hills High School and is a senior at Morehouse College, majoring in business administration with a concentration in finance.

“Reach for Excellence enhanced my development both academically and socially,” said Lewis. “Reach provided a boost that kept me on track in middle school and allowed me to thrive when taking challenging courses in high school.”

Lewis is an intern at Apple Inc. headquarters as part of the retail finance team in Cupertino, California.

After 350 graduates and 16 years of serving Atlanta middle school students, these graduates are examples of the impact that Reach for Excellence has made in the lives of deserving students.

For more information on Reach for Excellence, go to