By Cristina Janney, Hays Post, June 3, 2020 – see the original article here

Hays High School junior Jonathan Rupe placed first at the state JAG-K competition this spring, qualifying him for nationals.

However, Rupe, 17, of Hays said JAG-K has helped him do more than just hone his math skills.

JAG-K — Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas — helps students who might be at risk of not graduating high school succeed not only in finishing high school but completing training or education after they graduate.

“It’s given me a lot things to do to present myself to employers. It has  given me experiences in meeting people who own business or worked in many places,” he said.

“I’ve seen people from all over come into JAG and share their experiences. It is interesting how many different ways there are of succeeding.”

Johnny Matlock, JAG-K teacher, said Jonathan has struggled with his self-confidence. Winning the state competition was a big boost for his self-esteem, he said.

It did not come without some challenges. The state competition was conducted online because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Rupe was instructed to log-in five minutes before the competition was set to start, but his link was broken.

Frantically, he reached out to Matlock who was able to secure an alternate link from the state in time for him to log in to his math test.

Rupe took tests at the regional and state levels in order to qualify for nationals. The annual Career Development Conference also includes competitions for students in areas such as senior portfolio, public speaking and employability.

Matlock said the competition helps all of his students build skills and confidence. Another one of his students was afraid of getting up in front of people. She was in tears of fear the day of regionals, but qualified for state in public speaking.

“I think it gives them real world experience,” Matlock said of the competition. “They do interviews. They practice employability skills. Others give presentations as they would in the business world. Students make posters for businesses. They are practical skills.”

After completing school next year, Rupe hopes to work a couple of years before going to college. He wants to someday design video games.

“Video games are my passion,” he said. “I love them so much.”

Rupe  has been in JAG-K since his sophomore year and said JAG-K class time has been a lifesaver, because it has given him extra time to do his homework. 

The students competed in their state competition virtually after the team took first place at their regional in Hays. The State CDC took place May 20 on Zoom.

“In one respect, we had been training for this moment all year – an opportunity to practice resiliency, a major core competency that JAG-K seeks to develop in every student. ” Matlock said.

In a normal year, Rupe would be eligible to travel to Washington, D.C., for the national Career Development Conference. However, he said did not know the format for this year’s competition considering the COVID-19 outbreak.

Every student in the JAG-K program, which is in its second year at HHS, completed a project for the CDC. 

“We competed really well as a team. We took first place as a team at regionals and it was because of everyone’s work,” Matlock said. “It was a culmination of what everyone did. … I felt the kids really worked hard, and I think it even showed at the state level where we placed fourth. It was very cool.”

The following students also placed at the state and regional competitions.

State 
HHS JAG-K team tie for fourth place
1st place Math
 – Jonathan Rupe – Qualifying for National Student Leadership Academy in Washington D.C.
3rd place Senior Portfolio – Marshall Perryman
5th place Project Based Learning – Kayley Chartier and Jacob Bollig

Regionals 
1st place team
Margaret Holmes – Public Speaking – 3rd place medal – state qualifier
Jonathan Rupe – Math – 1st place medal– state qualifier
Tegan Hartman – Employability Skills – 3rd place medal – state qualifier
Kayley Chartier – Project Based Learning – 3rd place medal– state qualifier
Jacob Bollig – Project Based Learning – 3rd place medal– state qualifier
Marshall Perryman – Senior Portfolio – 1st place medal– state qualifier, regional president
Skylar Ashcraft – Poster Project – 2nd place medal
Elizabeth Dickman – Poster Project, 4th place and Mapping My Future, 3rd place
Sarina Williams – Mapping My Future, 4th place
Zac Chance—Students For Service –  3rd place
DaVantai Robinson – Students For Service – 3rd place
Shaun Koerner – Senior Portfolio, 3rd place  and Entrepreneurship, 5th place
Dawson Garrison – region vice president
Rachel Whitely – Senior Portfolio – 5th place