Nearly 600 students enrolled in Jobs for America’s Graduates across the 32-state National Network arrived in Washington, D.C. to participate in the Annual National Student Leadership Academy (NSLA) which began on Wednesday, December 3 and concluded on Saturday, December 6, 2015. The high school and middle school participants were accompanied more than 200 JAG Specialists, Supervisors and Managers as well as parents and school officials to make certain the young people took full advantage of this unique opportunity as well as to ensure their safety given the threats facing democracies worldwide.
There were absolutely no incidents during the four-day Washington visit and leadership development experience that detracted from the mission of this annual opportunity for young people who have shown extraordinary promise to secure quality jobs that lead to career advancement opportunities upon graduation from high school and/or pursue a collegiate education in their chosen career field.
Many of the JAG participants reported their flight to Washington Regan Airport was their first trip by airplane and their first time to stay in a large hotel like the Hyatt Regency at Crystal City. Jeff Koeninger, NSLA Director, and Mark Thomas, NSLA Staff Member, designed a loading system for the 16 buses required to move the nearly 800 delegates and chaperones in an efficient manner.
The first event was held in the District of Columbia on Wednesday, December 3, 2015—the JAG National Leadership Awards Luncheon attended by nearly 1,000 guests at the Marriott Marque Washington DC. The 35th Anniversary theme—“Delivering on the Promise”—was reinforced by President Ken Smith, Chairman of the Board and Governor of Mississippi Phil Bryant, and U.S. Senator Tom Carper in their remarks to the delegates.
The NSLA keynoter was Hasan Davis, a youth advocate and motivator, and the NSLA delegates responded enthusiastically to his message that all people have the opportunity to succeed. After an early history of social and academic challenges, including learning disabilities, pre-teen arrest and expulsion from alternative school and college, Hasan found the courage to change. Starting with change in his attitude and opinions of personal worth, Hasan petitioned for re-admission to the College that expelled him twice. The year Hasan finally graduated from Berea College he was elected president of the student body, voted Homecoming King and received the Navy V-12 award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to campus life and interracial kinship. From Berea, Hasan went on to graduate from law school. If you are interested in contacting Mr. Davis, his contact information is provided at the close of this article.
Special awards presented during the luncheon were:
· Patron Saint Award was presented to U.S. Senator Tom Carper, State of Delaware
· 35th Anniversary Award was presented to Jobs for Delaware Graduates as the First State of the JAG National Network
· National Student Investor of the Year Award was presented to USA Funds
· National Youth Employment Organization of the Year Award was presented to the Delta Regional Authority
· Corporate Youth Investor of the Year Award was presented to AT&T Foundation
· National Superintendent of the Year Award was presented to Pat Skorkowsky, Clark County, Nevada
Student involvement in the luncheon program included:
· Frances Walker, JAG-Arkansas, National Anthem
· Jamiya McKelvy, JAG-South Carolina, Student Singer
· Austin Vardman, JAG Mississippi, Student Remarks
The closing was led by Cyrus Birch, JAG-South Carolina to give added emphasis to the 35th Anniversary by demonstrating how much could be accomplished together than individually. Collectively, the JAG National Network has served more than one million students and more are being served each year.
Immediately following the Luncheon, the buses were loaded and returned to the Hyatt Regency at Crystal City to participate in the JAG National Competitive Events. There were three (3) events offered at the 2016 NSLA, including: (1) Employability Skills; (2) Public Speaking; and (3) Math Test. Employability Skills places the competitor in an employment interview; Public Speaking provides an opportunity for the competitor to address a specified topic to a panel of judges; and the Math Test assesses the competitor’s ability to respond to a set of math problems. The top three winners of the 2015 Competitive Events Program were:
1st Place – Jalen Bullock, Indiana; JAG-Indiana Specialist Michelle Race, Anderson HS 2
2nd Place – John Drew, Connecticut; JAG-Connecticut Specialist is Patty Damiani, East Hartford HS
3rd Place – Crystal Ragin, Delaware; JAG-Delaware Specialist is Elizabeth Harris, Concord HS
Public Speaking Skills
1st Place – Tatiana Crowe – Iowa; JAG-Iowa Specialist is Gayle Bowman, Decatur MacArthur HS
2nd Place – Trakila Whitehead – Mississippi; JAG-MSSpecialist is Mary Kimmons, Coahoma County HS
3rd Place – Larissa Medina – New Mexico; JAG-New Mexico Specialist is Loretta Apodaca, Bernalillo HS
1st Place – Luis Nunes – South Carolina, JAG-SC Specialist is Geraldine Sackiel, Calhoun County HS
2nd Place – Carsen Bentram – Washington State, JAG-Washington Specialist is Sheena Zacherie, Westside HS
3rd Place – Matthew Fields – Tennessee, JAG-Tennessee Specialist is Vickie Parsons, Fairview HS
The NSLA Opening Session and Dinner, presided over by Jeff Koeninger, followed the competitions. President Ken Smith was received enthusiastically by the 850 delegates, judges, and staff as he explained JAG leadership’s commitment to thirty-five years of “Delivering on the Promise”.
The 600 NSLA student delegates were placed in groups for the purpose of developing, practicing and refining their leadership skills. Each group was led by a trained facilitator who led their leadership group through a series of structured activities designed to enhance the leadership qualities of the NSLA delegates.
During the NSLA, there were customized tours of Washington, D.C. that were conducted for NSLA delegates to see the historical evidence of American democracy and values, including:
National Cemetery Arlington
o Grave of President John F. Kennedy and the Eternal Flame
o Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns
o Wreath Laying Ceremony
Twilight Tour of Washington, D.C.
o Kennedy Center
o World War II Memorial
o Iwo Jima Memorial
o Vietnam Memorial
o FDR Memorial
o Thomas Jefferson Memorial
o Lincoln Memorial
o Korean War Memorial
United States Capitol
White House Visitor’s Center
Shopping Opportunity at the Fashion Center Mall at Pentagon City
On Saturday night, a Talent Show provided an opportunity for individuals and group to share their talent with the NSLA delegates. There were singers, dancers, poets, guitarists, and many more with varying level of talents. There were no declared winners—just a fun and inspirational sharing of talents.
What is the National Student Leadership Academy? It is four days of discovering, disclosing, learning, touring, sharing, supporting, growing, and experiencing. JAG students and Specialists should make plans to attend the 20th Annual National Student Leadership Academy in 2016.
Hasan Davis Solutions
Hasan Davis, J.D.