A group representing Jobs for America’s Graduates-South Dakota at the Wagner Community Schools delivered one of the keynote presentations, “Student Success and the JAG Model,” at the National Indian Impacted Schools Association (NIISA) Annual Meeting and Conference in Las Vegas, NV, December 5, 2011.
Individuals from Wagner Community Schools speaking at the conference included juniors in the JAG III class–Sage Zephier, Clifford O’Connor, Tyler Provost and Joseph Mattis; Superintendent Susan Smit; High School Principal Neil Goter; and JAG Specialist Renee Van Der Werff. WCS School Board President Mike Denker also attended the conference.
The two-hour presentation opened with National JAG Representative Laurie Phelan, President and CEO of Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG), giving an overview of the JAG program at the national level. JAG was launched in 1979 by Pete DuPont, then Governor of Delaware, and was first called Jobs for Delaware Graduates (JDG). Due to the success of the JAG Model, the program has expanded to 33 states. At the high school level, JAG is an employability, leadership development and career exploration program that prepares students for employment and/or post-secondary success. The idea behind JAG is to pair students who have barriers to success and exhibit leadership potential with a trained JAG Specialist who will provide them with guidance, mentoring and coaching to help them realize their academic, employment and personal goals.
Following Laurie Phelan’s presentation, which provided the audience with knowledge about the JAG-National framework, Renee Van Der Werff shared the job description of a JAG Specialist, then, introduced each of her students who delivered a 10-minute speech.
Tyler Provost shared how the Wagner Community School JAG Program has impacted him. At the conclusion of a memorable and impressive speech, he received a standing ovation.
Sage Zephier and Joseph Mattis gave a PowerPoint presentation to explain how the JAG program started in South Dakota and at the Wagner Community School. The students also explained the JAG curriculum at both the middle and high school levels and talked about the goals of JAG’s co-curricular component which JAG students have ownership and provide leadership called the JAG Career Association. At the conclusion of their presentation, they also received a standing ovation by an appreciative audience.
Principal Neil Goter provided insight about starting a JAG program from an administrative perspective. He shared information about the JAG-Wagner program as well as explaining why the program was started.
The last student speaker, Clifford O’Connor, shared how the JAG-WCS Program had impacted him. At the end of his well-delivered message, Clifford received a standing ovation.
A question-and-answer period then opened, featuring the four students, Superintendent Susan Smit, Principal Neil Goter and JAG representative Laurie Phelan fielded a variety of questions. At the end of the question-and-answer session, the entire group received a standing ovation.
The Executive Director of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) based in Washington DC applauded JAG and the JAG-Wagner students for “doing something that works!” The Executive Director of the National Indian Impacted Schools Association (NIISA) commented that it was “the best kick-off to a conference that he could remember!”
Superintendent Smit was most pleased with the kick-off to the NIISA conference. She said, “the testimonials brought tears to the eyes of the conference goers and a grandmother stood up and told the boys she has hope for Native children because of their stories and presentations.