JAG-K Students Gather for Career Development Conference and Career Expo

More than 250 students from Jobs for America’s Graduates–Kansas (JAG-K) gathered at Fort Hays State University on March 20 for the organization’s annual State Career Development Conference (CDC).

JAG-K is a multi-year, in-school program for students in grades 6-12 that offers tools to successfully transition students into post-secondary school, the military, or directly into the workforce with marketable skills.

The CDC was sponsored by the Taco Bell Foundation and the Kansas Office of the State Bank Commissioner. Deputy Bank Commissioner Tim Kemp served as keynote speaker at the event.

At the event, students elected officers for next year, competed in areas of job preparedness, and met with about a dozen potential employers at a career expo.

“The State CDC is one of the most anticipated and exciting events of the year for JAG-K students,” said JAG-K President and CEO Chuck Knapp. “Representing your school at state is a rare opportunity, and all these students should be proud of the work and preparation it took to get there.”

The career expo was sponsored by Central Valley Ag, Goodland Tech and Kansas Gas Service. Students also met with representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 661, Kansas Air National Guard, Kansas Department of Revenue, Kansas Highway Patrol, KANSASWORKS, and Larned State Correctional Facility.

JAG-K participants across Kansas voted for statewide officers for the next year. Elected to serve as state officers were: (pictured right to left) President Kameron Welch, Emporia High School; Vice President Noah Maldonado, Junction City High School; Secretary, Hannah Greenleaf, Kiowa County High School; Parliamentarian, Kalli Peterson, Eudora High School.

The 250-plus participants competed in events that showcase competencies attained in the JAG-K program.

High school students who placed in competition were: 

  • Business Plan Team Competition: 1st Lauren Saenger, Tanner Norns and Brayden Dorch, Minneapolis; 2nd Reuben Solis, Ausia Martinez and John Seamans, Junction City Innovations Academy.
  • Career Preparation: 1st Bethany Wells, Junction City Innovations Academy; 2nd Jackson Waters, Junction City; 3rd Hannah Gideon, Russell.
  • Creative Decision Making Team Competition: 1st Liam Slocum, Caiden Caldwell and Jonathan Leckner, Pratt; 2nd Jaden Exantus, James Lamar and Jae’lynn Dennard, Junction City.
  • Employability Skills: 1st Leo Hernandez, Hays; 2nd Kyla Sterbenz, Shawnee Heights; 3rd Brooke Hubbard, Augusta.
  • Financial Literacy: 1st Sam Boetcher, Basehor-Linwood; 2nd Brooklyn Gilchrist, Kiowa County; 3rd Don Ingram, Hiawatha.
  • Project Based Learning Team Competition: 1st Jonae Conover, Noah Maldonado and Alani Burks, Junction City ; 2nd Greg Martinez, Mattea Kennis and Ashlynn Bradley, Holcomb. 
  • Prepared Speaking: 1st Ilyssa Maya, Concordia; 2nd AJ Hase, Emporia; 3rd Miami Holley, Topeka High.
  • T-Shirt Design: 1st Alyanna Hightower, Shawnee Mission West; 2nd Santina Dickson, Shawnee Mission North; 3rd Dalton Devin, Manhattan.

The top three finishers of the four different individual areas of competition (minus the t-shirt competition) and the top two finishers in the three team competitions earned the opportunity to compete at the National Career Development Conference in St. Louis in April.

High school teams were also awarded recognition based on their collective performance. The top three high school teams were Kiowa County High School (1st place), Junction City Innovations Academy (2nd place) and Junction City High School 2 (3rd place).  

Competitions in seven categories were staged for middle school participants as well. Minneapolis Middle School placed first in the team standings, followed by Junction City Middle School and Kiowa County Middle School.

Students who placed in the middle school CDC competitions were: 

  • Business Plan Team Competition: 1st Amelia Barnes, Norma Espericuetta and Aubree Gilchrist, Kiowa County Middle School; 2nd Ashlynn Mattox, Avary Domme and Makynzie Allen, Shawnee Heights Middle School.
  • Career Preparation: 1st Ryan Sanders, Westridge Middle School (Shawnee Mission); 2nd Lilliana Martinez, Junction City Middle School; 3rd Sara Goheen, Minneapolis Middle School; 4th Vianney Rodriguez, Great Bend Middle School.
  • Creative Decision Making Team Competition: 1st Amiyah Sharp, Auburn Just and Berklee Hesman, Minneapolis Middle School; 2nd Annabelle Wahl, Natalie Jakubowski and Gabriel Laureano Mendez, Fort Riley Middle School.
  • Employability Skills: 1st Quinley Bohl, Minneapolis Middle School; 2nd Myles Brayton, Westridge Middle School (Shawnee Mission); 3rd Tyler Sanders, Anthony Middle School (Manhattan); 4th Layquan Turner, Junction City Karns Middle School.
  • Financial Literacy: 1st Jaylee Abell, Minneapolis Middle School; 2nd Cayden Buchenav, Junction City Middle School; 3rd Gabe Thompson, Junction City Karns Middle School; 4th Kaleigh Kurtz, Anthony Middle School (Manhattan).
  • Project Based Learning Team Competition: 1st Jemma Ploger, Delaney Little and Addison Minyard. Kiowa County Middle School; 2nd Karina Galindo, Angel Flores and Aaliyah Rodriguez, Hutchinson Middle School.
  • Prepared Speaking: 1st Ella Nokes, Great Bend Middle School; 2nd Ava Hammond, Junction City Middle School; 3rd Liliana Aquino, Carl Bruce Middle School (Kansas City); 4th Ray Schendel, Westridge Middle School (Shawnee Mission).
  • T-Shirt Design: 1st Patience Rowland, Anthony Middle School (Manhattan); 2nd Adrian Franco, Junction City Karns Middle School; 3rd Zyrel Dela Cruz, Junction City Middle School; 4th Vianney Rodriguez, Great Bend Middle School.

Kansas’ 112 JAG-K programs serve approximately 6,000 students in 47 school districts across the state. JAG-K Career Specialists help students graduate and learn career, leadership, and life skills by executing a nationally-accredited, evidence-based model. Participants must meet criteria to be selected for the program and have potential to overcome various barriers to post-secondary success. Last year, JAG-K had more than 900 high school graduates.

The 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization is a state affiliate of the national JAG program network which operates in 38 different states and territories. It 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 ADM, AT&T, EagleU, Evergy, Goldstein Charitable Trust, the JB and Anne Hodgdon Foundation, John Deere, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas City Royals Foundation, Kansas Gas Service, the Kansas Insurance Department, the Kansas State Bank Commissioner, Kohl’s, Synchrony Financial, the Taco Bell Foundation, the City of Topeka, United Way of Kaw Valley, United Way of the Plains and Walmart.

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