In just a five-hour time span, more than 150 students from across the state competed for bragging rights in public speaking, problem solving, employability skills and other career competencies they’ve been learning throughout the year at the 6th Annual Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates Career Development Conference on April 16. The event is the yearly capstone of the dropout prevention and school-to-career transition initiative focused on student graduation, career preparation and college admission.
The twenty-four participating schools represented included: Alternative Choices for Educational Success (ACES) Academy • Beaver Island Lighthouse School (virtual) • Benton Harbor High School • Bridge Academy • Cody Academy of Public Leadership • Cody Medicine & Community Health Academy • Douglas R. Welch High School • Escanaba High School • Flint Northwestern High School • Flint Southwestern Classical Academy • Flint Southwestern High School • Gwinn High School • Lighthouse Academy • Muskegon High School • North Star Academy • Oasis Alternative High School • Ombudsman Alternative High School • Orchard View High School • Osborn Evergreen • Osborn Preparatory Academy • Potterville High School • Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School • Woodcreek Achievement Center (virtual) • Youth Opportunities Unlimited.
“I enjoyedseeing my students challenged in ways they may not have been challenged before and to come out victorious after overcoming those challenges,” said a proud Alison Cirino, the JMG specialist from Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School.
“I learned I gave a pretty good interview,” said Benton Harbor student Jevonne Stevens about the employability skills competition. “And now I know I’m ready for the real deal.”
Though Stevens admitted winning the trophies was pretty nice, both students and adult volunteers agreed hearing the inspirational message from keynote speaker Manny Scott was perhaps the highlight of the event.
Scott, an original “Freedom Writer” and motivational speaker whose story was told as part of the 2007 hit movie featuring Hilary Swank, had the audience laughing at one moment and crying the next, as he explained the struggles early on in his life that left him a dropout at age 14, living in 26 places by age 16, and having his best friend brutally murdered.
“I read about the barriers faced by the students within the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates program—I faced multiple of them myself when I was their age,” Scott said. “By a string of rather improbable encounters, however, and some very important decisions, and very specific actions … . [t]hings that I used to dream about have become a part of my daily reality. I am now a happy, faithful husband, a loving father, a thriving entrepreneur, a skilled pilot, and a public servant. I have invested the last 15 years of my life trying to give people hope.”
“Even though we all go through hard life situations, we can still succeed and be successful,” said Stevens about his takeaway from Scott’s message. Classmate Jason Bell agreed, speaking of how Scott made him want to change his life.
“It doesn’t matter what you’re going through in life—don’t let it bring you down. Keep pushing, and keep your head up.”
The state competitions were well organized, well judged, and those excelling were applauded by everyone present. First, second and third place winners were recognized in the seven competitions:
Chapter Marketing Competition
· 1st ACES Academy
· 2nd Benton Harbor High School
· 3rd Ombudsman Alternative High School
Creative Problem Solving
· 1st Benton Harbor High School
· 2nd Osborn Preparatory Academy
· 3rd Muskegon High School
· 1st Benton Harbor High School
· 2nd Bridge Academy
· 3rd Flint Southwestern Classical Academy
· 1st Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School
· 2nd Osborn Preparatory Academy
· 3rd Youth Opportunities Unlimited
· 1st Brandon Grant, Flint Southwestern High School
· 2nd George Kirkland, Benton Harbor High School
· 3rd Joseph Pearson, Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School
· 1st Ta’Miya Massey, Orchard View HIgh School
· 2nd Mykayla Ettenhofer, Escanaba High School
· 3rd Rosalie Williams, Oasis Alternative High School
· 1st Bethany Lee, Benton Harbor High School
· 2nd J.T. Ervin, Bridge Academy
· 3rd Shemya Gilmore, Orchard View High School
The event was made possible thanks to sponsorships by the United Way of Southwest Michigan, Bosch, Kinexus and the State of Michigan’s Workforce Development Agency. Another sponsor, USA Funds, was honored with the JMG Advocate Award, and JMG Specialist Jill Carter and program graduate Le’Trece Gonzalez from Woodcreek Achievement Center received Outstanding Specialist and Alumni recognitions respectively.
Several volunteers served in various capacities including judges, event personnel, and ensured a smooth-running conference for the students, including:
Alpena–The Office of State Senator Jim Stamas; Berrien, Cass, Van Buren—Benton Harbor Area Schools • Hanson Mold • Harbor of Hope Church • Heritage Homes • Kinexus • Lake Michigan College • Lakeland Health • Professional Corporate Intelligence, Inc • Southwestern Michigan College • The Office of State Representative Al Pscholka • The Office of State Representative Aric Nesbitt • United Way of Southwest Michigan • Water Street Glassworks; Detroit—Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation • Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC • Wayne State University • Workforce Intelligence Network; Flint–Mott Community College • The Office of State Senator Jim Ananich; Grand Rapids–ACSET • Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC • The Office of State Representative Chris Afendoulis • The Office of State Representative Ken Yonker; Kalamazoo—Michigan Economic Development Corporation • Michigan Works! Southwest • Odle Management • Western Michigan University; Lansing—Boys and Girls Club of Lansing • Capital Area Michigan Works! • Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC • Lansing Community College • Lansing Police Department • Lansing School District • Law Office of Edwar A. Zeineh • Michigan Department of Education • Michigan Economic Development Corporation • Michigan State University • Policy Office, Michigan Senate • Project PEACE • South Side Community Coalition • U.S. Air Force • U.S. Army • U.S. Marine Corps •Workforce Development Agency; Mt. Pleasant—Central Area Michigan Works!; Upper Penninsula–Northern Michigan University • The Office of State Representative Ed McBroom.
Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates(JMG) is a state-based affiliate of the national Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program. The national program has been in operation for 35 years, including seven in Michigan. The curriculum focuses on improving graduation rates and ensuring successful transitions into post-secondary education, employment or the military; and provides mentoring, job readiness, leadership development and other academic support for students at risk of dropping out.
Kinexus, a nonprofit focused on the economic vitality of the southwest Michigan region through integrated business, workforce and community solutions, is the parent organization of JMG. The program started in Benton Harbor in 2008, and has expanded statewide to serve nearly 800 students in 2004-2005.