DORA, Mo. – In its second year of operation, the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program at Dora High School is already seeing success in helping students navigate their education and the professional world that follows.
Since 1980, the national JAG program has helped over 1.5 million students stay focused on school through graduation and put them on a path to discover careers they may not have known about otherwise.
Dora JAG Specialist Amanda McKee says the program’s three main components are employer engagement, project-based learning and trauma-informed care for students with troubled pasts.
McKee worked with 50 total kids last school year, 12 of whom were seniors. All 12 of the former seniors are now employed full-time, with eight of the 12 also pursuing trade schools or college. McKee was also happy to note that several of last year’s students who are still in school now have part-time jobs.
While 142 competencies are spread among different categories, JAG students are expected to master 37 core competencies before the end of the school year. The competencies focus on career development, job attainment skills, basic competency and understanding verbal and written communication.
JAG students also focus on leadership and development skills such as what to base their values and beliefs on, understanding levels of maturity, and demonstrating ability to assume responsibility for one’s actions.
“We help to lay that foundation for their career development,” McKee said. “A lot of the students, especially in my area, it may be their first time to consider college. Or they might not want to go to college because that has never been a thought for them. So, we explore different colleges and push trades.”
Student participants are taught how to effectively create a résumé, are given mock interviews, and receive the opportunity to tour places and careers they may have never known existed.
McKee says a recent visit from First Lady of Missouri Teresa Parson and state Rep. Travis Smith gave her students a major boost of confidence in the JAG program’s legitimacy.
“Several of my students made the comment after that, they could not believe she took her time out to come and see them,” she said. “That confirmed that there are people in this world who believe in them and see the value in them.”
McKee checks up on her former students to ensure everything is running smoothly, and says she has received above-satisfactory reports from each student’s employer.
“For one of them, when his boss was telling me what a great job my former student was doing, I literally started to cry because he fought so hard to get where he is. He has broken those chains and ended those barriers. He put a whole new path for what his life could have been had he not wanted more and knew there was more out there. He is 19 and working full-time. He is a prime example of the JAG platform working.”
JAG students also work on specific campaigns throughout the school year. Thus far, participants at Dora High School have started a bullying awareness campaign and words of encouragement campaigns to uplift other students.