News Release: JAG-K Students Place in National Competition

Two individuals and two teams representing Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas placed in national competitions in Dallas last week, while several other participants finished in the top 10.

JAG National hosted the National Career Development Conference (NCDC) Thursday through Saturday, with a contingent from each state affiliate attending for training and competition.

This year, 29 JAG-K students reached the finals of virtual competitions that culminate the Regional and State Career Development Conferences held in the spring. The seven competition categories are Financial Literacy, Creative Decision Making, Prepared Speaking, Career Preparation, Project-Based Learning, Business Plan, and Employability Skills. The results of the events were announced Saturday, May 7.

JAG-K students who placed in the top three were:

  • Career Preparation, 3rd place: Melanie Varela, Garden City High School
  • Employability Skills, 2nd place: Ashley Reddig, Great Bend High School
  • Creative Decision Making Team Competition, 3rd place: Grace Thompson, Caydan Pore, Jordan Smith, Kiowa County High School
  • Project-Based Learning Showcase Team Competition 2nd place: Liberty Gilkey, Connor Pore, Karina Martinez, Kiowa County High School

JAG-K students who placed in the top 10 in their events were:

  • Financial Literacy: Angel Diaz, Goodland High School, Phoenix Riesner, Shawnee Mission West High School, Liam Schooler, Hiawatha High School
  • Career Preparation: Anylah Jones, Shawnee Mission North High School
  • Prepared Speaking: Madison Carter, Great Bend High School, Jackie Martinez, Garden City High School
  • Employability Skills: Daimein Pool, Shawnee Mission North High School
  • Business Plan Team Competition: Chiquisia Clemons, Mackenzie Kendall, Aeris McGee, Field Kindley High School (Coffeyville)
  • Project-Based Learning Showcase Team Competition: Cadence Sandlin, Anthony Altieri, Charles Seamans, HD Karns High School Junction City

“We are proud of the students that represented JAG-K at this national event,” said JAG-K President and CEO Chuck Knapp. “They were from every region of the state, and it was amazing to watch them come together as a team and compete at a high level. They were also respectful and kind, which makes an event like this even more enjoyable.”

Concordia High School senior Ryah Klima was elected the National Career Association president, selected from candidates across the country to guide the student-led association.

“We are thrilled to have a JAG-K student elected as the first ever president of the National Career Association,” said Knapp. “Ryah has overcome a lot of adversity in her life, and she will be a fabulous representative for JAG-K and the entire Jobs for America’s Graduates network of affiliates.”

Outgoing JAG-K Career Association President Devin Russell-Unger from Augusta High School and next year’s president, Nuru Abdallah from Wyandotte High School, attended to represent Kansas. Russell-Unger served as flag bearer in the opening ceremony, while Abdallah was emcee of the opening session and the grand award session.

Five JAG-K programs were accorded Outstanding Service Project Recognition at the national gathering: Westridge Middle School (Shawnee Mission), Hiawatha High School, Kiowa County High School, Augusta High School, and Newton High School.

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. 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 ADM, AT&T, Evergy, Goldstein Charitable Trust, John Deere, the Kansas Health Foundation, the Kansas Insurance Department, the Kansas State Bank Commissioner, Stormont Vail Health, Synchrony Financial, the Taco Bell Foundation and Walmart.

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