Summer is rapidly approaching. The break from school presents life-changing opportunities which Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) helps students navigate.
Whether it’s through camps, job shadowing, work opportunities, etc, JAG-K Career Specialists help students line up applications, interviews or whatever else they needed to obtain those experiences.
For one JAG-K participant, what was needed was some verbal encouragement.
Last summer, Russell High School junior Hannah Gideon participated in an internship with Agrilead, Inc., an innovative local seed-care products company. She needed a little moral support to apply for the internship offered through Ogallala Commons, a multi-state nonprofit education and leadership organization.
“I never even considered it until my specialist (Raina Tomlinson) told me ‘You can do it. You have all the experience and the skills to do it. You have the qualities that they need,’” Gideon said. “JAG-K has helped me so much to develop the confidence to do the internship.”
JAG-K 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 as in Gideon’s case, internships.
Gideon split her time last summer working in Agrilead’s Russell office and in various locations, learning about local food production. She presented what she learned from various research projects to Agrilead staff.
“It was very different from making a presentation to a bunch of high school students,” Gideon said. “But (the Agrilead staff members) were all very supportive of me throughout the process. It was great experience learning to work and interact with adults.”
Gideon served the past year as the president of the Russell High School JAG-K program. Tomlinson said that Gideon has been a very positive influence on the other students in the program. In part due to Gideon’s connection to Agrilead, the Russell JAG-K program took a field trip to the company’s headquarters.
Gideon said she is interested in studying environmental science in college. She said internships can help students explore their interests while still in high school.
“I realized that by gaining experience through the internship, I could get a head start rather than wait two years when I’m in college to begin learning more about the field of agriculture,” Gideon said. “Then I can use that experience to decide if it’s really what I want to do as a career.”
Recalling the benefits internships had on his own career development, Agrilead president Jeff Ochampaugh said connections made through internships are beneficial to both the student and the employer, particularly in small communities.
“It’s a low-risk opportunity both ways,” Ochampaugh said. “For the young person, they may discover something about their passions and abilities. And for the host of the internship, it’s a chance to get to know the person and see if they can be a potential fit for future employment.
Last summer, Hannah helped us accomplish some things which were important. But more important is how we can develop talent in rural communities and interest young people in working in this area of the state in the future.”
Tomlinson said Gideon’s influence has motivated other Russell High School students to investigate internship opportunities through Ogallala Commons.
“Last year we had just two students – Hannah and one non-JAG-K student – apply for and receive internships through Ogallala Commons,” Tomlinson said. “This year we have had 18 apply, all of them JAG-K students. And we are hoping to get many if not all placed with a summer internship.”
“To other students, I would say you can never go wrong with an internship,” Gideon said. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to stay on that path. It’s an opportunity to learn what it’s like in that field before you actually pursue it with all the years in college and all the money that you have to spend to get a degree.”
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 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, Kansas Gas Service, the Kansas Insurance Department, the Kansas State Bank Commissioner, Royals Charities, 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.