Posted: Tue 9:48 AM, Apr 18, 2017
Updated: Tue 10:23 AM, Apr 18, 2017
Jobs for America’s Graduates is a national program, but it’s making a big impact in Washoe County in northern Nevada.
It’s a program designed to boost graduation rates by targeting kids at risk of dropping out of high school, and giving them specialized support.
There are nearly 450 kids in Washoe County enrolled in JAG, but the program at McQueen High School is especially strong.
"I was a sophomore and I had a 2.56 GPA, and then now, my junior year, I’m up to a 3.8," McQueen junior Kailey Walter said.
"I started my senior year off with sophomore credits, and now I’m finally caught up all the way and on track to graduate," McQueen senior Adilio Nogeura said.
It’s making a big academic impact for most students, but the real value it’s providing is the change in perspective.
"It helps me realize that like I’m not stupid, like I’m smart and I have potential to do things, I just have to realize it," McQueen sophomore Zeria Rowland said.
The program is creating confidence in these kids by showing them what they can achieve.
"We do projects about our life, and to hear other people's stories and it doesn't make me feel alone, like we share, we talk, like if one of us needs something, the other one goes out and helps them with it," Rowland said.
"They've all been in your shoes, with not doing good in school or having problems at home, so it's like going to someone that you can share your story with, and you know that they're going to be there to talk to you, like it's really like going to a brother or sister," Walter said.
The students take field trips to learn more about different jobs and opportunities. They also volunteer heavily in the community.
Setting goals is what makes the program successful.
"I want to become a family worker or a social worker,” Rowland said.
"Now I know that, like, how I want to go to Carrington and I know I want to go through that nursing program and how I’m going to make it possible for myself," Walter said.
"I already took my ASVAB testing, the air force told me that I did really go on it and said that if I wanted a job with them after high school, just to give them a call,” Noguera said.
Suddenly, these teens aren't graduating just for the sake of making it out of high school.
"Graduation ends up being sort of an ancillary benefit to all of these other things, they become inspired to graduate because of all of these goals that they start setting for these skills," JAG specialist Danny Fierro said.
The JAG program specialists push these kids to succeed and graduate, but the road doesn't end there. Specialists follow the kids for an additional year after graduation to make sure they have what they need and are continuing to succeed.