Jobs for America’s Graduates is a national organization that helps disadvantaged students graduate from high school and confidently move on to the next phase of their lives. The nonprofit, often referred to as JAG, has an impressive 98% graduation rate among its Missouri students.
By achieving high graduation rates, JAG-Missouri is also helping end the cycle of what high school dropouts are known for: higher unemployment, welfare and incarceration rates, and even greater risk. high levels of ill health.
Paul Kincaid has been the executive director of the Missouri chapter since 2014. He tells the Missourinet that the JAG helps students think about what could be, instead of what is.
“The students we work with at JAG have great potential, but they also have a lot of challenges – the most notable and common are fairly difficult poverty, fairly difficult family life, and usually trauma in their lives somewhere in the world. along the way. ”he says. “A lot of JAG students are really trying to get to Friday. Then they try to get through the weekend and get to Monday. If they can make it until Wednesday, that’s fine. If they can make it to another Friday and another week, that’s fine. They are really in survival mode because of the situation they find themselves in. What JAG is trying to do is make them pause, take a half step back, and look at their life and future in a different way.
The JAG Specialist gets to know students on a personal level to help children overcome some of the challenges they face. The school curriculum also emphasizes career exploration, resume creation, employability skills, and interpersonal skills.
“It teaches them how to interact with people, how to introduce themselves. They have to work as a team to get to know each other and understand how to be a leader and also how to be a follower, ”says Kincaid. “We also spend a lot of time in public speaking – communicating. JAG students are known for their ability to communicate after leaving the JAG program. It’s like an athlete or a musician – you get better when you practice. These really are the skills, the basics that you need, whether you are an entrepreneur, military, CEO or whatever, these are the skills that you will need to be successful and grow.
Kincaid says JAG-Missouri broadens students’ horizons and gives them experiences they wouldn’t normally have. Learning often comes in the form of field trips to different companies, guest speakers, and special events. These efforts motivate children to keep up with their schoolwork.
“For new schools, what I usually hear in early fall is, ‘We thought this program would work, but we didn’t think it would work that quickly. The three things they say are that they are seeing better attendance; they see improved grades; and they see fewer disciplinary issues, ”Kincaid says. It’s a pretty good combination.
Nationally, around 50% of JAG students enter the military or the workforce directly. Another 40% end up attending a two-year community college or vocational school. About 5% attend a four-year university.
Once students graduate from high school, JAG is not done. The JAG specialists pick up the phone and call them every month for a year.
“Usually it’s just about hitting the grassroots and making sure they’re okay and hitting their goals. Sometimes we visit the employer to make sure the JAG student is doing well as an employee and see if there is anything we need to do with our curriculum to improve it.
The organization has been in existence for approximately 40 years. In Missouri, JAG has experienced significant growth in recent years.
In 2014-2015, six programs were in six schools in Missouri – four in Bootheel and two in St. Louis. This fall, more than 100 programs will be offered in approximately 70 schools in Missouri.
“We really grow through word of mouth. We will have an administrator who is in a JAG school and he will occupy a new position in a non-JAG school. The first thing they’ll want to do is bring in JAG. It says a lot about the program that admins are trying to bring the JAG into their new situation because they saw it work. It makes you feel pretty good, ”Kincaid says.
The nonprofit organization provides half of the estimated annual cost of the school program, and the school district pays the rest.
Kincaid says that since 2014, about 15,000 Missouri students have gone through the JAG.
To listen to the full interview with Paul Kincaid, click below.
This is a four part story series about jobs for American graduates from Missouri. Tomorrow’s Story will feature Missouri First Lady Teresa Parson explaining why she and Governor Mike Parson have chosen to be co-chairs of the organization’s board of directors.
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