JAG-K helps students graduate high school, find careers

TECUMSEH, Kan. (KSNT) — Jobs for America’s Graduates Kansas, also known as JAG-K, is working to prepare students for successful futures by helping them graduate high school and teaching career and life skills.

The program is funded through the Kansas Department for Children and Families. DCF allocates more than $4 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to fund program.

JAG-K President and CEO Chuck Knapp said DCF sees the program as an investment.

“If we can keep a student out of poverty or get them out of poverty, we know their chances of a successful career (and) a successful life go up dramatically,” said Knapp.

JAG-K is in 68 schools across Kansas with more than 3000 students enrolled.

In order to qualify for the class, students have to have at least five barriers to success.

“It could be an economic barrier, but also academic (or) environmental,” said Knapp. “We have students who can perform at a high level academically, but they’re just not because something has happened in the home, so we take a broader approach to the definition of at-risk.”

The classes are led by “career specialists” who work with students throughout the year.

Students spend time learning leadership, job interview skills and even how to write a resume.

Jason Robbs, a career specialist at Shawnee Heights High School, said getting students to graduation can first mean tackling the smaller things.

“If we can get them to start showing up to school, if we can get them to start going to class on time… they start to take more accountability and ownership,” said Robbs.

Robbs said the accountability and ownership help to lead students to graduation and success after high school.

Program advocates say JAG-K is working. Knapp said one student from Concordia even told the Governor that the program saved his life.

“He was homeless, his mother was a drug addict,” Knapp said. “He got in the JAG-K program and he’s now serving our country as a member of the United States Army.”

Knapp said JAG-K will expand to 16 new schools next school year.

“We already have more schools wanting JAG-K than we have funding for,” said Knapp. “We’re trying to go to those areas where we can have the biggest impact, but we’ll continue to expand and look for ways to help students prepare for successful futures.”

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