News Release: JAG-K Middle School Students Develop Interview Skills with HR Staff from KASB

Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) knows that it’s never too early to start preparing for career opportunities.

JAG-K Students at Hutchinson Middle School got a taste of career preparation recently by engaging in mock interviews with Alma Henry, Director of Leadership Services at the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB).

JAG-K 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.

The program provides opportunities for students to explore careers through employer engagement relationships. Those experiences may include field trips, job shadows, summer or part-time employment, and internships. The organization prepares students to enter the workforce by practicing applications and job interviews, writing resumes and developing employment portfolios.

Though the participants in her program range from just 12 to 14 years of age, Hutchinson Middle School Career Specialist Kayla Whitley knows experience is the best teacher.

“We set up an office to give it an authentic feel, and the students treated the experience like a real interview from the moment they walked in,” Whitley said. “Alma asked them a range of questions, which included describing themselves, their experiences, and skills, and why they wanted the position they were applying for.”

Formerly a teacher and instructional coach at Hutchinson Middle School, Henry has extensive experience in administration both in schools and on the state level, including leadership development.

“I really enjoyed conducting mock interviews for these kids,” Henry said. “It was incredibly rewarding to see them gain confidence and learn skills that I hope will serve them well beyond interviewing.

“Many young people start out feeling nervous or unsure about what to expect, so helping them understand the structure of an interview, how to answer questions thoughtfully, and how to present themselves, even at a young age, were a few of my outcomes. My hope is that I made the process less daunting and more exciting for them.”

Henry took notes from the interviews to provide feedback.

“I feel like it helped me come out of my shell,” Hutchinson Middle School 8th grader Karina Flores-Galindo said of the interview experience. “It made me feel more comfortable and confident with what I was saying.”

Henry’s experiences give her insight into the importance of preparing young students for the work force.

“Starting this prep in middle school is important because we can really emphasize those critical “soft skills” early on, including the art of communicating, problem-solving, and professional etiquette,” Henry said. “I also believe this type of preparation fosters a better understanding of their own individual strengths and ambitions as they plan for their future.”

Kansas’ 112 JAG-K programs serve approximately 6,000 students in 47 school districts across the state. JAG-K Career Specialists help students graduate and learn career, leadership, and life skills by executing a nationally-accredited, evidence-based model. Participants must meet criteria to be selected for the program and have potential to overcome various barriers to post-secondary success. Last year, JAG-K had more than 900 high school graduates.

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, EagleU, Evergy, Goldstein Charitable Trust, the JB and Anne Hodgdon Foundation, John Deere, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas City Royals Foundation, Kansas Gas Service, the Kansas Insurance Department, the Kansas State Bank Commissioner, Kohl’s, Synchrony Financial, the Taco Bell Foundation, the City of Topeka, United Way of Kaw Valley, United Way of the Plains and Walmart.

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