Award Year: 2013

Rutherford Early College High

286 ICC Loop Road
Spindale, NC, 28160-0804

(828) 395-4190

Jeremiah McCluney, Principal at time of Nomination

Dr. Laura Thomas, Current Principal

Rutherford County Schools

School Website


REaCH’s mission is to prepare students to be future-ready and globally competitive by providing a rigorous, innovative curriculum in a 21st Century learning environment.

Student Demographics
  • Black/African American: 6%
  • White: 83%
  • Hispanic: 7%
  • Asian: 1%
  • Native American: 1%
  • Two or more races: 2%
  • ELL: 1%
  • Economically Disadvantaged: %

Founded in 2005, the educators who worked to create Rutherford Early College (REaCH) sought to make the school a stark contrast from traditional high schools in order to reach struggling students while offering them hope for their futures after high school. Through a stratified lottery process, REaCH students are targeted for enrollment by being first-generation college students (the first in their immediate family to achieve a college degree) and for low socioeconomic status as defined by the economic income guidelines of the FDA. Each incoming class is kept purposefully small (no more than 50 students) in order to offer a low teacher to student ratio and to foster a sense of community and family among the students, faculty, and staff. Students are also provided laptop computers for school and home use, allowing for seamless integration of technology in a paperless educational environment. Using New Schools principles of rigor, relevance, and relationships, REaCH offers classroom experiences that are engaging, personalized, and innovative. Our students are not only college ready, they are college graduates when they leave REaCH, earning their two-year associate’s degree from Isothermal Community College during their four years of high school. Students and staff begin each school year with an overnight camping trip, where students get to know each other and the faculty, and each school year ends year with Connections at the campground, a group activity that allows students to share goals, concerns, hopes, and dreams in a safe and nurturing setting, an activity that is utilized repeatedly throughout the year in classrooms, grade level meetings, and on field trips, building a sense of community and family among students and faculty.