Matlock honored for service to JAG-K and Hays community

JAG-K Career Specialist Johnny Matlock discusses a project with a student.

(HAYS) — In just its second year, the Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) program at Hays High School (HHS) is making a big impression in the Hays community. 

JAG-K specialist Johnny Matlock was recently recognized by the Hays Chamber of Commerce as the community’s citizen of the year, in large part for his work at HHS. 

Receipt of the Nex-Tech Citizen of the Year Award at the Jan. 28 reception at the Memorial Union Ballroom at Ft. Hays State University took Matlock by surprise. 

“It was pretty funny,” Matlock said. “I think everyone knew but me. They told me that I would be the guest speaker, to talk about JAG-K. So I was very surprised and humbled and honored when they announced the award.” 

The award recipient is recognized for his or her “community involvement during the past year and giving of themselves for the betterment of our community and its people.” 

It was a lot of fun to surprise him,” said Sarah Wasinger, President/CEO of the Hays Chamber of Commerce. “Johnny is a very well-respected person in our community. In the short time that he’s directed the program at Hays High, I’ve had the ability to see Johnny give students an avenue to shine. He is helping students get skills to thrive and be fully engaged as civic leaders when they graduate high school.” 

Wasinger said that JAG-K is already playing a significant role in the Hays business community. 

“Talent attraction is a big emphasis in our business community,” Wasinger said. “Hays will benefit from having a candidate pool of people who graduate high school with a lot of pride and a lot of confidence who might not have been there without JAG-K.” 

Matlock said that receiving the award at a gathering of Hays business leaders was significant for the program. 

“I was very pleased, not just for myself, but that it spoke so highly of the JAG-K program,” Matlock said. “Being recognized there at the event, there were so many people there who now know something about the program. I could say that I don’t feel like I deserved the award, but I feel like my students do and I feel like the program does. 

“The employers that we work with buy into that we’re making the community a better place. They can have a big impact on the students that we are training to be future employees, some of them working right here in our community.” 

Matlock said the JAG-K program at HHS, launched a little more than a year ago, has received vital support from the administration and staff, as well as by the Hays community. 

“From the counseling staff, to the administrators, to the teachers, I really feel like it’s a team effort,” Matlock said. “They believe in what we’re doing, and I think they see the results.” 

Matlock is in his second school year as the Hays High School JAG-K specialist after serving as a music teacher for more than 20 years. Chuck Knapp, President/CEO of JAG-K, said that specialists like Matlock are the lifeblood of the program. 

“Johnny Matlock epitomizes what we look for in a JAG-K Career Specialist,” said Knapp. “He has a passion for helping students succeed, regardless of how their particular life and career paths look.” 

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. In 2018, JAG-K students had a 98 percent graduation rate.   

The 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization is one of 39 state affiliate organizations of Jobs for America’s Graduates and is primarily funded through the  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant administered by the Department for Children and Families. Other JAG-K funding sources include AT&T, John Deere and Taco Bell. 

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