JOBS for AMERICA'S GRADUATES

Wishing for the JAG Experience

Carrie (Pixler) Goodheart graduated from Pratt High School in Pratt, Kansas in 2006. She graduated on time and her grades were decent but doesn’t feel she had a clear direction for adult life. She is now the director of a new program at Pratt High School that she wishes had been available to her.

Carrie started college at Fort Hays State University in communications, then switched to business but found that didn’t feed her creative side.  She ultimately finished a degree in general studies, more of a “build your own major” program that included marketing, leadership and graphic design. After four years in retail management she’s back in Pratt. This is where she will inaugurate the JAG program at PHS.

Developed 30 years ago in Delaware, JAG it is in its second year in Kansas. Last year, 25 schools served 850 students in Kansas schools. At the time of enrollment, all the students participating in JAG were at risk of not graduating. Last spring, 94 percent earned a diploma. After that initial success, the program will double in Kansas for 2014-15.

JAG is available to school districts at no cost. The schools only need to provide a classroom and some technology. Those costs will be covered by a federal grant for three years. Hopefully, at the end of that period, the community and board members will be convinced that it’s a useful program, Goodheart said at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

Goodheart never expected to find herself in the classroom even as the daughter of two teachers but she feels confident that her experiences will enable her to teach real world lessons. The answer to the age old question, “when am I ever going to use this?” will be readily apparent, because classroom lessons will be relevant right now and correspond to future goals.

She will teach three block classes a day and use the fourth block to connect with the business community. The JAG curriculum includes classroom lessons with the goal of developing competencies like leadership, self development, career development and personal skills such as time management, self-marketing and customer service.

“I feel this is something I will be able to hone in on, because of my personal experiences,” Goodheart said.

The class also includes job shadowing experiences and field trips in Pratt and beyond. Goodheart says she will also sponsor a club that will meet like other organizations at the school. The developing of relationships between the specialist (Goodheart) and students and among the students themselves is a very important element of the program. Last week Goodheart interviewed students to find those for whom JAG would be beneficial. It’s not for the honor student who already knows she wants to go to Kansas State.

For some JAG students the next stage of preparation may not be a four-year university. There are lots of vocational and technical options that Goodheart thinks many students may not know about. There is not one direction, but 30 (assuming she has 30 students in the program).

“There are lots of success stories with JAG,” she said. Indications from the national JAG organization are that nationwide, 93 percent of JAG participants graduate from high school and 77 percent are considered to have a “positive outcome,” in job placement and/or post-secondary education enrollment.