Butler County Times Gazette, Aug. 5, 2021 – See the published article here
Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) is dedicated to helping students overcome barriers to success.
Augusta High School senior Devin Russell-Unger has not just overcome some significant barriers himself. He is now leading others to overcome theirs through his role as president of the JAG-K State Career Association, which unites JAG programs throughout Kansas.
Russell-Unger was invited to speak to JAG staff from across the nation at its annual training conference in July. Russell-Unger shared in a video presentation to the staff his experiences in foster care.
Russell-Unger, who was adopted in March of this year, expressed that JAG-K helped him stay on course when his family situation left him directionless and unmotivated.
“Being in foster care for a good portion of my life, really impacted me,” said Russell-Unger. “It threw me into depression for the longest part of my life, being separated from my parents and often not able to see my brothers. It really hurt my life. But that’s where JAG stepped in. It said ‘We may not be your real family, but we can be there for you every step of the way.’”
Augusta High School JAG-K Career Specialist Christy Pray said that Russell-Unger’s leadership talents, combined with his perspective as a student adopted from foster care, will make him an effective president of the state career association.
“I’m so excited for our program to have a statewide president, but I’m even more excited for Devin,” Pray said. “He is such a strong advocate and a strong voice. He really uses his platform, from having been in foster care to being adopted. The leadership opportunities in JAG-K have really propelled him on this amazing pathway.”
Elected by his peers from across Kansas to lead the affiliation of students in April, Russell-Unger and other elected officers will work with leaders from around the nation to shape the direction of JAG-K.
Those other statewide officers include:
- Vice President Ryah Klima, Concordia High School;
- Secretary Karin Moorhouse, Hiawatha High School;
- Treasurer Kaden Nguyen, Emporia High School.
Russell-Unger said he understands the amount of work the role of president will require, and the responsibility it brings. He said he would like to see more students have the opportunity to participate in JAG-K, and particularly for more programs to be provided at the middle school level.
“I’m taking it one step at a time, trying to look ahead at how everything we do will affect students in the future,” Russell-Unger said. “The program has done so much for me, and I want to help make it even better for others.”