Jobs for Montana's Graduates (JMG) provide students with vital skills and information that translate into ‘real life’ post-graduation. This is certainly the case for three students who attended Culbertson High School and participated in JMG. The three young adults, Paxton LaQua, a 2014 graduate, Mariah Machart and Angela Benson, 2015 graduates, are doing work they are passionate about and utilizing skills they learned in the JMG classroom. LaQua, Machart and Benson have embarked on their own individual paths, but all of them believe their success harkens back to JMG and Jobs for America’s Graduates. The trio believes both programs helped them reach their full potential and maybe most importantly make a plan for life after graduation.
Angela Benson, the author of this article, came to love the JMG program not only for what she learned from being an active participant, but for how active and connected she and her fellow students were able to be within the Culbertson community. Her senior year, as graduation day loomed, the thought of leaving the town of Culbertson was un-nerving. She felt as though she wanted to stay and continue being an involved community member.
Through JMG, Benson was able to research and explore what her future would look like if she chose to follow her intense passion for psychology. Benson realized that furthering her education was just as important to her as staying close to home. Because of this, Benson applied to California Coast University in Santa Ana, California, a private school which offers online, accredited degrees in psychology.
Upon acceptance into CCU, Benson was in search of a job that would assist her financially in earning her degree and allow her to be as involved in the community as she was when she was as a JMG student. Three weeks post graduation, Benson was hired as the senior reporter for The Searchlight newspaper in Culbertson. Benson is now a full time student at CCU and continues to work full time for The Searchlight. She is currently working towards earning her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and plans on earning a Master of Science in Psychology. Her goal is to one day work as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.
LaQua participated in JMG at Culbertson High School his senior year. He kept going back and forth between his two top choices: to attend a University in his home state or enroll in a school known as Youth with a Mission (YWAM) at the University of the Nations in Kona, Hawaii. He decided on YWAM and was accepted. After his first Outreach trip, the second phase of YWAM where students travel to locations around the world, LaQua decided to attend Leadership school at the University of the Nations. He recently returned from his second outreach. On that trip he was able to lead a team. He remains at the University of the Nations in Kona and plans to continue his leadership training.
As a senior, Machart was involved with JMG as well. She learned about YWAM through LaQua and followed him on his journey. After some consideration, she packed her bags and began the journey from Culbertson to Hawaii in 2015.
For 12 weeks after her arrival in Kona, Machart spent her time at YWAM in a school called Fire and Fragrance. The school was a Discipleship Training School (DTS) consisting of lectures and trainings preparing her for the outreach phase of YWAM. While in the DTS, Machart experienced beyond the trainings and lectures. She heard some of the best public speaker and she and her classmates were able to assist with security at the Iron ManWorld Championship. When the time came for outreach, Machart’s top three locations she picked were Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Uganda, Africa. “I picked Uganda because I have always felt that I needed to go to Africa. That was my number one pick, I really wanted to go,” she mentioned. The trip from Kona to Uganda took 52 hours of travel time.
The Uganda missions trip is the most expensive trip out of all ten locations and is set up through an organization known as Show Mercy International, founded by Americans in 2004. Their motto is, “To mobilize, inspire and empower individuals all over the world to live life on purpose while reaching out in love”. The area in which Machart and her team stayed at is called the Field of Dreams. There were compounds for staff, team and intern housing, as well as a clinic and an ark where they held meals, meetings, worship and games. The entire area is gated and fenced, complete with security guards and guard dogs.
Machart witnessed life in Uganda first hand. The sole water source for the residents was rain. In addition, Show Mercy would bring water to them. They grow crops, and as a source of income, they would grow natural plants and sell them to a market. If there was no rain, the crops did not grow and if the ground was not rich with nutrients, the crops would not grow.
“Being in Uganda and seeing how they live life there is different than how it is shown on the media. It’s almost worse, but it’s almost better,” Machart recalled. Machart and her teammates promoted the Show Mercy Sponsorship while in Uganda, which is where anyone can sponsor a child or an elderly individual. The sponsorship helps provide residents with food, water, glasses if needed, medicine and any needed medical procedures. “The sponsorship covers the basics to survive. Sponsored children can even see who their sponsor is because the YWAM students can show them. There’s also the mail option to contact the child you sponsor, but mail is slow in Uganda. The letters have a ways to travel, but you could get two or three a year,” Machart shared.
Machart and her family are currently sponsoring two children: a boy and a girl who are brother and sister. The Macharts sent them a Christmas card, and the two children were so thankful that they approached Machart and bowed down in front of her. “Even though they are very young in age, these kids understood what we all gave up to go help and be with them. They knew we left our friends and our families. They knew it cost us a lot of money. They were so thankful and appreciative that it made everything worth it. I learned more from them than what I taught,” she said. The goodbyes were tough, but Machart had to travel back to Kona on Feb. 28. Macharts family traveled to Kona for her graduation. She graduated from the University of the Nations in March. Machart has been asked by several area churches to speak at youth groups and share her experience. She now plans to enroll at the University of North Dakota in Bismarck and major in occupational therapy.
Across the Jobs for America’s Graduates organization there are stories just like those of Ashley Benson, Paxton LaQua and Mariah Machart, stories of learning, team building, service to others and ultimately, success.