The REACH Project
Transforming Communities One Life at a Time!
Max & Mrs. Melissa
There comes a moment in your life when the door swings open, the lights are turned on, and reality smacks you in the face. Until that moment, you take for granted the conveniences and comforts that are the norm of student life. You don’t see the nameless, faceless workers who make it all possible. And in that blazing moment when you finally see them and are confronted by the glaring disparities in your world, you are faced with a choice - accept your community the way it is, or commit to changing it.
Max Gerall is a student who committed to work for change. While attending Texas A&M University, he became friends with A&M’s invisible contract service employees. His life was forever changed by his friendship with Melissa Martinez, an on-campus dining hall cashier. Through their friendship, he learned about the hardships the more than 3,000 contract service employees face. Max surveyed 170 third party support staff and found 50% were traveling more than 55 miles to work each way, 60% did not have a high school diploma, that 65% have not been to a doctor in 6 years, that 75% are forced to accrue debt annually just to make ends meet and 40% of the workers are working in the same job that their parents have worked for 30+ years. Many work two jobs, 6 days/week, year-round, just to keep food on the table. That’s what the employees do while the college students they support enjoy their free Wi-Fi and swim-up bars. After realizing the extent of the inequality between the two University communities, Max could no longer turn a blind eye; he chose to take action.
REACH simultaneously pursues community development, lifelong learning, quality workforce housing, health and economic security for Aggie workers, through creating opportunities for the entire Aggie community to be woven together.
Respect Empowerment Aspiration Community Hope
Max’s decision led to the birth of the REACH. The organization was incorporated in Texas in 2017 and received its 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status in 2018. Today, it is governed by an independent Board of Directors.
The REACH Vision
To create transformative communities where historically invisible members have the opportunity to realize their full potential.
The REACH Mission
To provide the resources required to help all members of the community acquire the skills and assets needed to achieve financial self-sufficiency, build transgenerational wealth, and prevail over the obstacles preventing them from achieving their fullest potential.
The REACH has created a self-sustaining higher education ecosystem that encourages all members of the Texas A&M University community to experience Respect, Empowerment, Aspiration, Community, and Hope.
REACH intends to disrupt the societal stigma that attaches to University’s service workers by weaving together all segments of the community and making the invisible Aggies, visible.
Nutrition & Healthy Lifestyle Assessment
Early Childhood Development & Daycare
Homeownership Awareness & Preparation
GED & Certification Training
Primary Skill Development
Financial Literacy & Budgeting
Upskilling & Career Planning
Wellness Screening & Education
Language Education & Literacy
Naturalization Preparation & Citizenship Education
Vehicle Maintenance & Repair
Home Maintenance & Repair
Affordable Learning Village
Community Health Clinic
Early Childhood Development Center
Nature Trails & Safe Play Areas
Credit Repair & Financial Stability
Founder & CEO
Shannon Van Zandt
Department Head of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning at Texas A&M
Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M
Award Winning Journalist
Director of the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy at Bush School
REACH Advisory Alliance
REACH12 is a select group of 12 community leaders, assembled to propel the REACH initiative to its optimum potential. The alliance is comprised of key University partners and local community leaders from Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Construction Science, the Center of Government Nonprofits and Philanthropy, a representative from Mays Business School, and the University Career Center, as well as representatives from The Brazos County Health District, Bryan City Council, City of College Station Director of Community Development, and AgriLife Extension.
REACH12 is championed by a faculty member with expertise in low- income housing, home-ownership, and community development. She is leading the development of a tactical plan to more fully incorporate the REACH vision, mission, and student and community programming into broader university initiatives. The members of REACH12 have each pledged their intellectual, relational and financial resources or support of the vision and mission.
Bryan City Council Member
Department of Construction Science
at Texas A&M
Director of Community Services at City of College Station
Health Promotion Manager at Brazos County Health Department
Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations at Texas A&M
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
Associate Director, Former Student Career Services at Texas A&M
"Hundreds of 'invisible Aggies' have been laid off, furloughed or had their hours reduced. Sunday's event provided 600 meals for 150 families. "
- The Eagle
"The REACH Project aims to help food service, custodial, grounds, and maintenance employees who have had job cuts or been furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic."
- KBTX News
"...through education and partnerships with grad students to provide healthcare honestly left me reeling with pride to see that desire to love people in this way. Super excited to see the Aggie core values being lived out so tangibly in this city."
- Heather Laney (Nursing Volunteer)
Dr. Jaye Weston (College of Pharmacy)
- REACH Health Fair Attendees
- REACH Health Fair Attendee