Jobs For America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) does more than prepare students to become good employees. It prepares them to become community leaders. One way JAG-K accomplishes this goal is by introducing students to the Kansas governmental process on JAG-K Day at the Capitol, a day-long visit to the Kansas statehouse that includes meetings with legislators.
One JAG-K student from Hutchinson has turned that one-day tour into a year-long learning experience.
Hailee Black, a senior at Hutchinson High School, has spent the past year working as an intern for the Kansas State Representative from Hutchinson, Jason Probst. The connection between the student and her local legislator began on JAG-K Day at the Capitol a year ago.
“My friends and I got lost in the building and Rep. Probst just happened to be the person we asked for help,” Black said. “He took us onto the floor of the House and showed us around. I invited him to speak to our JAG-K class, and later he asked if I would like to intern for him. It’s been an amazing experience.”
Probst visited the JAG-K program at Hutchinson High School in the spring of 2022. He spoke to students about his career, which involved industrial work and journalism before he entered politics. In the fall of 2022, Probst was the featured speaker at the Hutchinson JAG-K Initiation and Installation Ceremony.
“I’ve been impressed with the comprehensive way JAG-K prepares students for adult life,” Probst said. “Incorporating practical life and leadership skills into the curriculum really sets students up for success.
“I also appreciate the way JAG-K helps build experiential confidence for these students. They graduate the program with a deeper understanding of themselves, their abilities, and ways in which they can effectively navigate the complexities of life.”
The representative asked Black to help with his re-election campaign during the summer and fall of 2022. She worked Wednesdays and Saturdays leading up to the election, typically six to eight hours per week. Her work included door-to-door campaigning, making and delivering yard signs, and helping with community events.
“I got to see up close how he interacted with people and handled situations,” Black said. “I saw how much work goes into a campaign. We started in early August and would walk different sections of Hutchinson, talking to as many people as we could. I saw how a legislator can connect with the people if they are motivated to.”
“Hailee’s help was invaluable,” Probst said. “She helped me reach out and connect with constituents, as well as a number of other tasks around the office. My hope is that experiences like these help students like Hailee understand that nothing is beyond their reach, that they belong in any part of the world in which they want to be, and that with real-world experience, they’ll know how capable they truly are.”
Black is no stranger to elected office. Last spring, she was elected secretary of the JAG-K State Career Association by a vote of her peers across Kansas. In that role, she helps conduct meetings and plan events for the organization that serves more than 5,500 students. In December, Black traveled with the group of Kansas state officers to a leadership training conference in Washington D.C.
Black’s legislative intern experience will continue this spring when she will spend 12 days working in Probst’s office in the Statehouse. She recently appeared on a podcast hosted by Probst. She discussed how JAG-K, and her intern experience, have aided her development.
“My plan is to enlist in the Air Force and to eventually work for the Federal Aviation Administration,” Black said. “So, it’s good to have some knowledge of how the government works.”
The Hutchinson High School senior is one of many students who are preparing for life beyond high school with the help of JAG-K. It 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. JAG-K provides opportunities for students to explore careers through employer engagement relationships. Those experiences may include field trips, job shadows, internships and summer or part-time employment.
JAG-K students are slated to visit the Statehouse in 2023 on Feb. 8. More than 400 JAG-K participants from across Kansas will tour the building, meet with their respective legislators, and learn about state government. Some leaders of the program will meet with Gov. Laura Kelly and be recognized in the House and Senate chambers.
“Our annual visit to the statehouse is designed to make students feel connected to state leaders and empower them to feel like they can participate in the process of government,” JAG-K President and CEO Chuck Knapp said. “Hailee’s experience as an intern is an example of the kind of doors a visit to the Capitol can open.”
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, Evergy, Goldstein Charitable Trust, John Deere, Kansas Gas Service, the Kansas Health Foundation, the Kansas Insurance Department, the Kansas State Bank Commissioner, Stormont Vail Health, Synchrony Financial, the Taco Bell Foundation, the City of Topeka, 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.