In an effort to get more schools interested in the JAG-Indiana (Jobs for America’s Graduates) program, Scott Sanders, Indiana Workforce Development commissioner, traveled to various areas across the state to discuss its benefits.
The goal of the national nonprofit organization based in Delaware is “to strive for a nation without dropouts. There are quite a few in Indiana,” he reported. “The whole point is to get individuals to stay in high school and then have an option of entering employment, the military or postsecondary education.”
Most of the students entering JAG have barriers to overcome. “They are economically disadvantaged. They are from the free and reduced lunch list. They have low academic performance or skill deficiencies, and they come from single-parent homes or their parents may be on drugs or incarcerated .... There’s no one to help them find their path in life.
“The program focuses on 88 core competencies .... Students work with a JAG specialist in a class size of about 30. They learn employable skills and receive career information and financial literacy. They must also do community service and have to create their own resume. We integrate this program with Work One to understand what employers are looking for.
“We’ve branched out to over 2,000 businesses. They are keys to success” and can offer job opportunities for students in the future.
“Not all the students are college focused. There’s a nice mix of those in career and technical education, too.”
Leadership teams are set up in the JAG classrooms. “That gives students an opportunity to express themselves and show their leadership capabilities.”
A one-year follow-up after students graduate from high school is also included to continue to enforce that someone cares for them, the commissioner pointed out.
With the help of federal and state funding ($12 million for the 2013-14 school year), over 5,000 young men and women have participated in the program.