More than 150 students from Jobs for America’s Graduates – Kansas (JAG-K) programs across the state participated in the organization’s annual State Career Development Conference (CDC), held virtually on April 21. Winners of the six different areas of competition were announced that afternoon.

In addition to the competitions, JAG-K participants across Kansas voted for statewide officers for the next year. These four officers will attend the National Student Leadership Academy (NSLA) in Washington, D.C. later this year.

Representing JAG-K at NSLA as elected state officers will be: President, Devin Russell, Augusta; Vice-president, Ryah Klima, Concordia; Secretary, Karin Moorhouse, Hiawatha; Treasurer, Kaden Nguyen, Emporia. Their election to a state office qualifies them for membership in the newly formed JAG National Career Association.

In past years, the State CDC competitions were held at a central location. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the competitions were conducted virtually for the second year in a row.

“Last year, very early in the pandemic, we found that we could still hold a very effective CDC virtually,” said Chuck Knapp, President/CEO of JAG-K. “It is really important that we provide students opportunities to showcase their skills. While we hope to return to an in-person CDC in the future, we may keep elements of the virtual event to allow more students to participate.”

The 150 participants competed in events that showcase competencies attained in the JAG-K program. Students who placed in the top three in the high school CDC competitions are: 

  • Employability: 1st Kaedan Kearn, Concordia; 2nd Ashlee Parker, Russell; 3rd Emma Paramore, McPherson
  • Public Speaking: 1st Ryah Klima, Concordia; 2nd Adonica Daub, Goodland; 3rd Bryce Hopkins, Great Bend
  • Financial Literacy: 1stAlex Engle, McPherson; 2nd (tie) Nickolas Mercer, Seaman, and Gracie Leonard, Holcomb
  • Project-Based Learning: 1st Tanner Rexwinkle and Hunter Robben of Russell; 2nd Jasmine St. John, Hutchinson; 3rd Dakota Aumiller, Great Bend
  • T-shirt Design: 1st Riley Olauson, Hiawatha; 2nd Graciela Garcia, Pratt; 3rd Courtney Eickbush, McPherson
  • Senior Scholarship: 1stYoselyn Castaneda, Pittsburg; 2nd Blair Holiday, Holcomb; 3rd Cheyenne Gordon, El Dorado

Teams were also awarded recognition based on their collective performance. The top three teams came from McPherson High School (1st place), Concordia High School (2nd place), and Russell High School (3rd place).  

Competition in four categories was staged for middle school participants as well. Westridge Middle School in Shawnee Mission placed first in the team standings, followed by KC-Turner Middle School and Kowa County Junior High School.

Students who placed in the top three in the middle school CDC competitions are: 

  • Employability: 1st Olivia Overton, Westeridge MS, Shawnee Mission; Regan Greenleaf, Kiowa County; 3rd Corey Coulter, Colby
  • Public Speaking: 1st Marcos Hook, Cruz Hernandez, Regina Uscanga, Shelby Stephenson, K’talya Webb, Turner MS Kansas City; 2nd Haylei Greene, Asher Odell, Avianna Balbueno, Kaysten Barrett, Colby; 3rd Breana Maxwell, Spencer Lowe, Jeremiah Anderson, Kellen Gibson, Winfield
  • Financial Literacy: 1st Trevor Morgan, Hutchinson: 2nd Caden Perez, Westridge MS, Shawnee Mission; 3rd Brooklyn Gilchrist, Kiowa
  • Project Based Learning: 1st Brielle Poe-Thomas, Parker Witt, Humberto Miranda, Westridge MS, Shawnee Mission; Myron Berry, Dylan White, Izzy Gomez, Turner MS Kansas City; 3rd Ryan Flores, Kadyn Vierthaler, Hutchinson

Earlier this year, each of the eight JAG-K Regions hosted Career Development Conferences to determine those who qualify for state. Qualifying students were those who placed in the top three of each category at their Regional CDC.  

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, 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.