While JAG-K is generally recognized for the work it does in high schools across Kansas – helping students overcome barriers to graduation and career success – it has realized the benefits of starting these supports as early as middle school.
JAG-K has 10 programs in middle schools, where students are being equipped with the tools they will need to succeed in high school and beyond.
In the high school JAG-K programs, students learn concrete skills regarding college and careers. In contrast, the JAG Middle School Competencies focus on important concepts such as self-understanding, decision making, and character development. Allowing students to build these personal and interpersonal skills provides them with a foundation for success as they transition to the high school JAG-K program.
“JAG-K is an incredible support for middle school students,” said Rachel Hand, Career Specialist at Turner Middle School in Kansas City. “The concepts we teach allow young students to begin to truly understand themselves and their impact on others.”
JAG-K middle school programs can be found in large cities and in small towns across Kansas. Regardless of the population they serve, the middle school programs emphasize leadership and personal development to vulnerable students.
“Often we have students in our programs who aren’t involved in other activities or haven’t found their niche, and JAG-K offers a place to belong,” said Ali Fisher, Westridge Middle School (Shawnee Mission) Career Specialist. “In many cases, they have leadership potential, but aren’t always using it in the best way. We get to work with those students and begin to see their confidence grow, showing them what they are capable of and helping them make better decisions.”
Dr. Bill Weber, principal of Turner Middle School, said JAG-K helps students in his school feel valued and find a place where they belong.
“Middle school is the time in schooling where I believe we can have the most impact on students,” Weber said. “If we were to wait until high school, I firmly believe that would be too late. Middle school students need connection and direction during their most developmental years.”
Fisher said that she and Hand simulate a micro-economy in their classroom. Students handle the finances of fictitious businesses, create resumes, apply for jobs and learn to budget. She said they also participate in community service projects and character-building exercises.
Fisher said a slight difference from the high school programs is in the types of guests who frequent the classroom. She said there is less emphasis placed on presenting career options and more placed on guiding students to success in their high school years. This might include introductions to principals, guidance counselors and school resource officers. They inform students about pathways, programs and clubs that will be available to them in high school.
“I bring in the head of the culinary program for our district, or the head of the bio-tech or engineering program,” Fisher said. “We’re showing them what opportunities are available to them at the high school level.”
“By identifying these students in middle school, you begin building those relationships and resiliency in them. The more caring adults they have in their life, the more successful they’re going to be,” Fisher said.
JAG-K accredited middle school programs are found in:
Colby Middle School
Hutchinson Middle School
Winfield Middle School
Chisholm Middle School in Newton
Carl Bruce Middle School in KC
Turner Middle School in KC
Hocker Grove Middle School in Shawnee Mission
Westridge Middle School in Shawnee Mission
JAG-K also works with middle school students in Kiowa County Junior High and Stafford Junior High as part of multi-year programs.
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 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization is a state affiliate of the national JAG program network which operates in 40 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, Taco Bell 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.