JAG team ready for Kansas Competition

Great Bend Tribune, Jan. 31 – click to read original article

The school board meeting had just ended Thursday when Great Bend High School JAG instructor Teresa Laraby asked if she and three of her students could also give a presentation. Board members said they were happy to stay and hear what the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) students are doing.

Laraby was joined by her class’s leadership team: President Kimberly Escobedo-Valdez, vice president Melisa Gonzalez and secretary Kaleigh Sheets.

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

Great Bend USD 428 was one of the firsts districts in Kansas to adopt the program, Superintendent Khris Thexton said. It started as an elective course at GBHS and has grown to include Great Bend Middle School. “This program is well-respected,” he said.

This year there are 90 JAG students enrolled in two classes at GBHS and there are 45 students enrolled at GBMS.

Escobedo-Valdez said the high school students are encouraging middle school students to enroll in JAG. They learn how to interview for a job, prepare for future careers, write business plans and more. Project-based learning, critical thinking, public speaking and employability skills are all part of the curriculum. “Starting those skills early is really going to help you,” she said.

This week the students will have classroom competitions in these areas, Sheets said. After that, they’ll compete in regionals with a goal of advancing to state.

The leadership team is also looking forward to speaking to middle school students on Wednesday, Jan. 31, when Ellinwood hosts Reality U, and on Feb. 6 they have an overnight trip to Topeka scheduled for the annual JAG-K Day. The event gives students the opportunity to tour the Statehouse, meet with their legislators, and watch both legislative chambers in action.

While the three students are part of their class’s leadership team, each of them said JAG helped them to move out of their comfort zone. Sheets said she would have been too shy to speak to the board of education before taking this class.

The school board meeting was at Riley Elementary School, and a few sixth graders were in the audience. One asked the high school students how JAG has helped them.

“I got my first job this summer because of JAG,” Escobedo-Valdez said.

Gonzalez said she also got a job and now she is applying to K-State. Sheets has been accepted to Wichita State University after graduating from GBHS.