(TOPEKA) — When schools closed their doors in mid-March due to the COVID-19 virus, they scrambled to continue operations. They would need to teach and support students by every means possible in lieu of holding regular school sessions.

Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG-K), a multi-year, in-school program for students in grades 7-12, was positioned to respond to the closure of schools without missing a beat, assisting its school partners across the state to meet the needs of students in 79 programs.

Participants in the JAG-K program face multiple barriers to success. Without additional assistance, these students may lack the resources and support to graduate high school, or to transition into post-secondary school, the military, or directly into the workforce with marketable skills. Faced with such barriers, missing the structure and daily encouragement they find at school may be particularly challenging to them.

“JAG-K is able to seamlessly continue our support of our participants because we maintain 12-month contact with students as part of our regular evidence-based model,” said Chuck Knapp, President and CEO of the organization. “Each local program is directed by a Career Specialist who helps students overcome barriers through a variety of learning strategies, including project-based learning and remote learning tools. Our program is designed to work effectively both inside and outside the traditional classroom.” 

Knapp said JAG-K staff understand that, with the recent closure of schools, their students need the support JAG-K provides now more than ever. Career Specialists have built solid relationships that position them to provide social/emotional support to their students through this traumatic time.

A message from the national leadership of Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) illustrated why the Career Specialists are essential to helping students with barriers to success during this unique time:

  • The closure of schools is especially detrimental to JAG students, who often look to their Specialist and classmates for steadiness and security in their lives.
  • A disproportionate number of adults may begin seeking employment in the same type of entry-level jobs that often provide opportunities to high school students and recent graduates. It stated “A difficult environment is likely to continue for some time, so we are in the process to reposition our training and support to make the best case for our JAG students to be considered for employment.”

Schools statewide have been forced to adapt their methods for the remainder of the school year. Knapp said JAG-K will stand with its school partners to provide support during this challenging time. While not able to provide the interpersonal touch in the classroom, Career Specialists are working to help their students by:

  • Checking frequently on their wellbeing – do they have their basic needs met, are they coping with the emotional effects of the shutdown?
  • Taking inventory of the tools at their disposal – do they have their school books, access to computer with internet, ability to receive messages from teachers, etc.?
  • Communicating resources available to them and their family – financial relief, food donations, mental/emotional counseling, etc.
  • Ensuring that all students, including seniors, are meeting the requirements to successfully complete the school year.

“None of us could have foreseen the current situation, but the evidence-based JAG model does equip our organization and our team to support our schools and our students,” Knapp said. “We are prepared to face this challenge together.”

The 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization is one of 35 JAG state affiliate organizations and is primarily funded through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant to the State of Kansas administered by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). In addition to school districts and DCF, JAG-K partners with the Kansas Department of Education. Other JAG-K funding sources include AT&T, John Deere and Taco Bell.

To learn more about JAG-K, visit www.jagkansas.org, ‘Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas’ on Facebook, and on Twitter at @JAG_Kansas. ###