News Release: JAG-K Student Earns Employee of the Month for Life Saving Act

Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) doesn’t just prepare students for successful futures. It also prepares them to impact their communities in positive – even life-saving – ways while still in high school.

A resident at an assisted living facility in Marysville has the professional training and quick thinking of a JAG-K student to thank after she came to his aid. Paige Wilcox, a senior in the JAG-K program at Marysville High School, performed the Heimlich maneuver on the man who choked on food in the facility dining room.

“I was on lunch supervision to make sure nothing happened. A resident started choking and turning blue,” said Wilcox, who became a certified nursing assistant during her junior year of high school. “A lunch assistant was there, but she didn’t have a CPR license. So, I provided the Heimlich to help him start breathing.

“The man’s spouse was right next to him. She was in tears thanking me for saving his life. It made me feel really proud.”

For her actions, Wilcox was named Employee of the Month of the facility. She has since taken a different job at a nursing care facility that provides an even higher level of assistance to its residents.

“I wanted to get a more hands-on nursing experience to get myself ready for my future,” Wilcox said. “I’m planning on working in a hospital. Eventually I hope to be a delivery room nurse, or maybe become a gynecologist.

“I’m doing this to really prepare myself for the future. I wouldn’t say I’m more mature than others my age, but I’m just trying to put myself in position to prepare for what I want to do in life.”

As a junior, Wilcox enrolled in JAG-K in the inaugural year of the program at Marysville High School. She said the program, under the leadership of Career Specialist Emily Gartner, profoundly improved her self-confidence.

“When I first joined, I wouldn’t really talk to anyone. I had a very low self-esteem,” Wilcox said. “Ms. Gartner told me she thought I would make a good president (of the program’s Career Association). At first, I was in denial. I didn’t think I could be a leader. She convinced me to run for president.

“It changed my view of myself and of the world. It brought a light into me. Now I am a more outspoken person. I love talking to people.”

“I love that Paige is in health care because she cares a lot for the well-being of people, and she is very intelligent,” said Gartner. “She has shown great leadership of our JAG-K program.”

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. 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. 

Activities and assessments in the JAG-K classroom helped Wilcox narrow her career choices and shape her plan for the future.

“At first I thought I wanted to be a psychologist,” Wilcox said. “But in JAG-K, we did research on different jobs and careers. That made me realize that I want to be there for people and help people when they are in their most vulnerable state, to make them feel comfortable and make them feel safe.”

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.