Aubrey Thimesch, a 2020 graduate of Kingman High School, was announced Monday as a recipient of the 2020 T-Mobile Kenneth M. Smith Scholarship presented to 50 participants in the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program nationwide.

Thimesch, who plans to attend Illinois State University in the fall, was informed by Brittany Esposito, Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) Career Specialist at Kingman High School, that she would receive $1,000 toward the cost of her education courtesy of T-Mobile.

Thimesch then received an email message from Larry Caruso, Chairman, Governance Committee of the Kenneth M. Smith Scholarship Fund, officially congratulating her on the award.

“I was really surprised! It was fantastic to hear,” said Thimesch, who plans to study psychology with aspirations of becoming a therapist. “I could never thank (the scholarship committee) enough. I know that college is really expensive, so this will really help. It will make the load a lot easier on my parents, so I am really thankful.”

The JAG Board of Directors established the Kenneth M. Smith Scholarship Fund in honor of the extraordinary leadership and service of the first and only President and CEO of Jobs for America’s Graduates, Inc., Kenneth M. Smith. 

Funding for additional scholarships was generated this year by T-Mobile through the #TossYourCap Challenge, a salute to 2020 graduates across the nation whose senior year was affected by COVID-19.

“I think they saw that I have a lot of compassion for helping others,” Thimesch said about why she was selected. “I have over 120 hours of community service. My passion really lies with helping people, and I’m planning on making my life about that.”

As a JAG-K Career Specialist, Esposito helps students like Thimesch overcome barriers and graduate high school on time by equipping them with the skills to succeed.

“She is definitely a compassionate person, always willing to help, and patient with people,” Esposito said. “I also think that she’s a very hard worker and she’s very eloquently spoken. She was able to explain her passion and what she wants to do with her future.

“Aubrey was shy at first. She was willing to lead, but not yet ready. Over the past couple of years, she has taken steps to put herself into leadership positions. She has grown, and her speaking skills have shown such improvement.”

Thimesch was involved in the JAG-K program at Kingman for two years. During that time, she acquired a part-time job at Kingman Drug Store.

“JAG-K helped me in so many ways,” Thimesch said. “Before I joined JAG-K, I was looking for a job, but I didn’t know exactly how to put myself out there. Mrs. Esposito really helped me (develop) a lot of skills and to make myself more employable.

“It also really helped me learn what I want to do for a career. As a junior, I had some idea, but I didn’t really have any direction. But with the college visits and the guest speakers, it really helped me figure out what path I want to take for my future.”

JAG-K is a multi-year, in-school program for students in grades seven through 12 that offers tools to successfully transition students into post-secondary school, the military, or directly into the workforce with marketable skills. Participants in the program face multiple barriers to success that their JAG-K Career Specialist helps them overcome through a nationally-accredited, evidence-based model. The most recent data shows JAG-K students have a 98 percent graduation rate.

The 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization is a state affiliate of the national JAG program network which operates in 35 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 AT&T, Capitol Federal, John Deere, Synchrony Financial 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.