Helena, Montana- Over 300 career specialists, students, and table captains mobilized at Jobs for Montana’s Graduates (JMG) 2018 LEAD Montana Conference on October 30, 2018. Montana Governor Steve Bullock and City of Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins were on hand to help welcome attendees and speak of the importance and value each student has to their communities.
The focus of LEAD Montana was guided by facilitator Shannon Stober of Verve Exchange, where she engaged Career Association student leaders in fun interactive “out of the comfort zone” activities that pushed and tested interpersonal skills in order to help students connect. Shannon also emphasized the significance of this year’s theme, Mobilize, and how students can take what they learn at JMG and apply them to everyday life while promoting JAG-JMG.
After the workshop, students and career specialists gathered for the Awards Luncheon and sat with industry and community leaders aptly titled as Table Captains. Approximately 50 Table Captains attended and included individuals such as Northwestern Energy representative Howard Skjervem, Montana Chamber of Commerce President Webb Brown, Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen, and Montana Ambassadors President Andy Gordon. Students were able to conduct employer engagement and career exploration through interactions with their Table Captains. Students got to ask about their industry and the paths that lead them to their position. After the luncheon with Table Captains, Governor Bullock and Mayor Collins helped to celebrate student achievements and recognize teacher’s service anniversaries to JMG at the Awards portion of the conference. There we announced the winning student logo from Paris Gibson Education Center (JMG), and recognized JAG’s Peak Performance Award winner Scott Hanson from Billings Career Center for Outstanding Follow-Ups!
The crescendo of excitement and anticipation had to be the announcement of the four student finalists selected to represent Montana in Washington D.C. based on their essays. The four students attending JAG’s National Student Leadership Academy (NSLA) are Jimmy McAlister of Paris Gibson Education Center, Alexandra Pehlke of Glasgow High School, Raferdy Samson of Hot Springs High School, and Madison Huckfeldt of Granite High School!
However, the true highlight of LEAD Montana was JMG Alumna Ana Torres from Frenchtown High School as our closing keynote speaker. Mrs. Torres shared her personal story of struggles and battles with loss and addiction as a student, and how JAG- Montana (JMG) was able to help “cut through the fog” and assisted her to cope and get sober through the support and encouragement she received from students and Career Specialist Phil McLendon. She overcame several barriers while in high school and graduated. She is now a loving wife to her husband and mother to two amazing kids and continues to live and work in Montana. Mrs. Torres currently enjoys a career working for Allegiance Health, a Cigna Company, and is furthering her post-secondary education through Allegiance. Her story was truly profound and hopefully continues to inspire others across Montana.