There are so many success stories each year involving students in the JAG programs around the country, including graduating from high school. And it is always rewarding to see these students recognized. Jobs for Ohio’s Graduates shares the stories of two students enjoying their successes at the conclusion of the 2011-12 school year. Nikki Rutherford earned her GED through the JOG Our Way program and was honored as Adult Learner of the Year and Stephanie Foxworth, also a GED graduate from JOG Our Way was recognized as a young entrepreneur.
Workforce Advocacy for Youth (WAY) serves students and graduates at twelve Metropolitan Akron-area high schools in Summit and Medina Counties. A non-profit organization operating the Jobs for Ohio's Graduates (JOG) program. The mission is to assist youth in making a successful transition from school to work.
It’s often expected and sometimes taken for granted that students will and should graduate from high school. The truth is many students face severe challenges in their personal lives that make graduating from high school very daunting. Nikki Rutherford began facing these challenges after her 6th grade year.
Nikki lives in Akron, Ohio. She remembers having a love for school until sixth grade. That was the year her mother, a single parent became addicted to drugs. The family moved from place to place and Nikki didn’t establish roots anywhere. She recalls thinking “I was no longer worried about school. She doesn’t care so why should I?” At this point Nikki chose a path that led her to hang out with the wrong crowd and get into trouble. It seemed as though things would not get any worse, unfortunately, they did. Josh, Nikki’s 19 year-old other brother was killed on Christmas in 2009 and Nikki says she “hit rock bottom.” “I never felt that kind of pain before. That’s when I got in a lot of trouble.”
At seventeen, Nikki was court ordered to complete her GED. She purposely skipped classes and got into more trouble to avoid attending the GED prep classes. “Finally,” she said, it hit me. I wanted more than that. I wanted to be important instead of being seen as someone wasting her time.” At that point Nikki returned to J.O.G. and committed to attaining her GED. On June 16th of this year, at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, Nikki Rutherford became the first person in her family to earn a high school diploma. She realizes that J.O.G. and Project Learn deserve the credit for helping her achieve her diploma and determine a career path. Nikki will be attending Stark State University in the fall. Her goal is to become an entrepreneur. “I want to own many businesses. And yes, I used the plural, because I want to own more than one. I want to open chain stores across America. I know I have big dreams, but I plan to fulfill them.”
The icing on the cake to this whole experience? Being honored as Adult Learner of the Year at Project Learns June graduation ceremony. She spoke in front of the nearly 400 people attending the graduation and shared her story.
In other J.O.G. news, Ernst & Young, a very well-known accounting firm and corporate partner of Jobs for America’s Graduates proved its commitment to fostering entrepreneurship by rewarding young entrepreneurs with a scholarship. CEO, James Turley presented the firms first Entrepreneur of the Year Alumni Fund college scholarship at a gala in New York City in April to Stephanie Foxworth, a JOG (JAG-Ohio) student.
Stephanie is a GED graduate from the J.O.G. Our Way (JAG-Ohio) program. Stephanie created a business called Elaborate Dips, which produces and sells specialty chocolate covered fruit for the E-City Bizcamp she attended in June of 2011. During the 2 week Bizcamp young participants, including Stephanie, learn to do everything from envisioning a product or service, to coming up with a business plan that is presented to the camp’s judges. Stephanie’s business plan was the top pick at the JOG-sponsored Akron Bizcamp.
Stephanie’s reward included $500 cash, the $5,000 Ernst & Young scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to New York City where her scholarship was presented to her. In addition to her scholarship, cash prize and trip, Stephanie was invited by the Obama White House to attend a Summit on Financial Capability and Empowerment in May of this year. The focus of the summit was schools, communities and corporations improving financial literacy. Even more recently, Stephanie has been invited to speak to nearly 1,000 employees at Ernst & Young’s annual global meeting in California, where the accounting giant ordered 1,000 Elaborate Dips chocolate covered apples for the event attendees.
The young Ms. Foxworth credits JAG as a big part of her recent success. “None of this would be possible without JOG (JAG-Ohio). JOG is the one place I followed through and I was focused. I was pushed to achieve. So I thank JOG!”