A job shadow experience sponsored by Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) led a former McPherson High School student to a job that is now paying dividends in public safety for the community.
Tiannah McGill, a 2022 graduate of McPherson High, was unsure of her career aspirations when JAG-K allowed her to spend a few hours observing behind the scenes in the dispatch office of the McPherson Law Enforcement Center. She watched the calm, confident responses provided by the dispatchers, who serve as the first point of contact for people in need of emergency services.
It might have seemed like a daunting task at the time. But McGill is now providing that service herself as a full-time dispatcher.
When McGill joined the JAG-K program at McPherson as a sophomore, she was struggling with school, lacking motivation and direction.
“When Tiannah joined our program, I really think it gave her a safe space,” said Katelyn Loecker, career specialist of the McPherson High JAG-K program at the time. “She felt that she could be herself. As she matured and grew over time, she went from being a low performing student in the classroom her sophomore year, to earning all A’s and B’s by her senior year.”
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.
“In her senior year, we had our students complete a job shadow in the fall semester,” Loecker said. “Tiannah chose to complete hers with a dispatcher at our local police station. She absolutely loved it!
“It demonstrated the power of job shadow experiences. She didn’t know anything about the career when she went in, but she discovered it interested her and it gave her some knowledge of what the job requires.”
Law enforcement dispatchers answer emergency calls and coordinate the response to the severity of the reported crime or accident. McGill said that the position requires a lot of thinking, and she must be able to stay alert and calm during high stress situations.
“JAG-K helped me learn how to talk to people better, develop life skills and learn how to do important things such as writing a resume,” McGill said. “It also pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I thank Ms. Loecker for helping me succeed and get me to the point I am at now.”
Loecker, who now serves as a regional manager for JAG-K, said McGill is an example of the influence of the program.
“Tiannah is the ideal JAG-K student success story,” Loecker said. “She was someone who really struggled with motivation, recognizing the skills she has to offer, and where she could make a difference in this world. Because Tiannah trusted both JAG-K and myself, she truly matured, embraced opportunities, and has grown into an incredible young lady. I am just so proud of her for her resilience and for trying to make the next right choice that would positively impact her life.
“She put herself out there to embrace a career that really is not easy. However, I think she has the perfect personality and skill set to become a phenomenal dispatcher.”
JAG-K is an evidence-based program in 49 school districts across Kansas, helping more than 5,500 students prepare for post-secondary education and employment opportunities. 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, 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, the City of Topeka, United Way of the Plains 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.