Jobs for Arizona Graduates uses structured learning experiences to set youth on path to fulfillment

Phoenix, AZ | Submitted by Graciela Garcia Candia

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A mayor. Lawyers. A legislator. Nurses. Law enforcement officers. Teachers. These are all jobs that are now being done by graduates of the Jobs For Arizona Graduate (JAG) program.

Now with 25 programs serving 1,200 students, JAG has aided Arizona youth for more than 30 years. Aimed at students who have multiple barriers to success, JAG is an in-school program designed to help young people stay in school and acquire the academic, personal, leadership and vocations skills they will need to be successful upon graduation. With four key focus areas (college and career readiness, middle to high school transition, JAG works. and college success), the team presents engaging leadership and other activities to set their program participants on a path to success.

These are youth who face a wide variety of challenges – both academic and personal – that threaten to derail their future. They deal with everything from substance abuse problems to lack of support in the home to a history of poor attendance or performance. There are so many potential roadblocks to education and many students can’t see a way around them. That’s where the JAG team comes in.

Each student who participates takes part in a daily course as part of their regular school day. They learn about everything from employability skills to the importance of community service (they’re required to do 10 hours), to financial literacy. The class even offers time for academic tutoring, if it’s needed. Students also participate in a student-led Career Association where they hone specific skills in the areas of professional and leadership development and civic awareness. For those who are headed to college in the following year, JAG can assist with finding financial aid, navigating college applications and even personal challenges. And beyond that – students receive another 12 months of coaching and support to begin their college careers and maintain employment. JAG works in close partnership with the schools, which allows the team flexibility to individualize their approach and tailor help to those who need it.

JAG’s efforts are closely aligned with the Arizona Education Progress Meter, which is tracking high school graduation rates, post-high school enrollment and the number of “opportunity youth” in our community, among other things. While JAG’s efforts are primarily focused on improving high school graduation rates for youth facing barriers to academic and workplace accomplishment, their work has implications far beyond that.

And their work is highly successful. This year (class of 2017), 97 percent of JAG seniors graduated in May with their cohort, exceeding both the national JAG standard and Arizona’s overall average of 80 percent. Among the JAG students who just completed follow-up (class of 2016), 95 percent of graduates were positively engaged in school or work with 63 percent of graduates enrolled in post-secondary education. JAG works with more than 1,000 youth every year, which means that thousands are on the path to a bright future. But what’s even more telling than the statistics is the engagement that JAG graduates have with the program – they routinely return to share their story and inspire future students.

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