JAG Program Makes Students Job Ready

JAG Program Makes Students Job Ready
Posted on 10/08/2018
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7th-8th grade JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) Specialist Stephanie Goodman is changing the conversation for students to a “When you graduate” scenario, and focusing on being job-ready via whatever path they choose after graduation. The JAG program has 125 programs in Arkansas school districts, and the Hot Springs School District (HSSD) Junior Academy is among the only to have a dedicated specialist position for 7th-8th grade JAG Middle School curriculum. JAG is a skills-focused program that exposes students to life skills, good communication practices, financial literacy, community involvement, and pathways to general understanding of how to identify their own talents.


“JAG is more about mentoring and walking alongside students than anything else,” says Mrs. Goodman. “In this unique course, we are encouraging them to develop imperative life skills and build responsibility for how they will eventually earn a living, without losing focus on who they are and who they want to become.We have an opportunity at this age to remind them - If you don’t like who you are now, we can help you change things for the better.”


Under the JAG Middle School curriculum, 42 competency areas are implemented including: self-analysis, studying, communications, character development, self-understanding, following a budget, ethical responsibility, and more. Service Learning Projects are an important piece of the curriculum, and include a requirement to interact with a community organization and complete a project based on a need for a minimum of 10 hours each year. Local organizations to benefit have included: The Caring Place, the Hot springs Red Cross, and Hot Springs YMCA.


Among various outstanding efforts, Junior Academy JAG students are known for their aggressive entrepreneurial efforts as they run a fully operational Hot Springs Button Company. Students design and make buttons for various causes, and sell them at school events and local organizations. The Button Company effort allows Mrs. Goodman to implement core competencies and requirements of the program through a creative business effort that was entirely designed by students. The company structure and budget was built by JAG students. They created a business plan and marketing plan. All students interviewed for positions with the company. Students keep up with spreadsheets to track sales and campaign successes. They collaborate to design and produce new buttons based on events, trends, and requests from other students. All design work,  button construction, packaging, planning, and tracking is undertaken in Mrs. Goodman’s classroom. Company profit is used to fund outreach resources for the company (like flyers, sales tents, online platforms, etc.), special events for JAG students, and various school and community causes, all of which are chosen by JAG students. Funds provided for student treats during testing periods, and other projects to promote encouragement and camaraderie like Shout Out Boards that allow students and teachers to pass compliments. JAG students also hold Family Nights so that students and parents engage and cook dinner together to discuss challenges and opportunities. The Hot Springs Button Company model has been so successful that Mrs. Goodman was invited to present about the initiative at the National JAG Conference this past summer.


“Educators are more successful when we value connecting with students on a personal level. JAG allows me to do that in a deep way and I enjoy it so much. This program really is making a difference for our amazing students and for this community,” says Mrs. Goodman.


Currently, Mrs. Goodman oversees five Junior Academy JAG classes with 95 total students this year and 113 last year.


Learn more about the HSSD Junior Academy, here.  


New JAG Program at the Hot Springs World Class High School


In September, Governor Hutchinson and leadership from the Jobs for America’s Graduates program, Arkansas Department of Career Education, and other Arkansas business leaders presented the HSSD with a $25,000 Entergy grant check to fund a JAG program at our #HSSD Hot Springs World Class High School. Now, students in the Junior Academy JAG program can choose to continue taking JAG electives through 12th grade.  Learn more, here.


More about Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG):


Arkansas ranks second in the nation for scholarships received by JAG students (over $10 million was received across programs last year).  With personalized skills development facilitated by JAG instructors, and interaction with local businesses and various career options through internships and service learning projects, JAG students receive a non-traditional approach to becoming career ready.


JAG is a data-driven initiative. School program applications are approved by an Oversight Board and receive stringent audits to ensure that schools and administrators are held accountable for the project-based curriculum and job placement services that are promised by the program. JAG is known for helping to create very high graduation rates among student participants, with 95% of JAG students receiving high school diplomas.


Learn more about the nationwide JAG, Inc. program, here.