Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) prepares students for successful futures. For one Kansas City student, that meant turning his academics around, securing an internship, and developing the confidence and the skills to excel in the workplace.
Shawnee Mission North High School 2023 graduate Jorge Gamboa was struggling to find focus and keep his grades up when he joined the JAG-K program for his final year of high school. The program’s Career Specialist, Amanda Polking, held him accountable for his schoolwork and helped him hone his employability skills during the fall semester. Then she challenged him with an opportunity.
Polking set Gamboa up with a tour of the Garmin International Product Support Center in Olathe and a job interview for a paid work/study program with the company.
“I wasn’t really familiar with Garmin,” Gamboa said. “Ms. Polking described the opportunity and the benefits and said it might be a great thing to think about. I was planning on taking a year off before going to college, so I was interested. She said she thought it would be a great fit for me.
“We took a tour of the facility and the first thing they did was interview me. I said ‘Well, I’ll give it a shot.’”
In mid-January, Gamboa began spending his afternoons – from 2 to 6 p.m. every Monday through Thursday – training in customer service at the Garmin High School Work Experience.
“We started pretty fast, meeting people from the different teams within Garmin, learning about products,” Gamboa said. “I did kind of second-guess myself because I could tell that it was going to be a lot of technical work. I was nervous. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself.”
Gamboa said the company invested several weeks training him and three other high school students who were selected for the high school work experience program. They were taught how to respond to inquiries via email and on the telephone, learning customer service and problem-solving skills as well as the technical aspects of Garmin products.
“Our hope is that interns will understand they have a lot of options after high school, including starting a career right away at Garmin,” said Willow Woodall, a Human Resources staff with Garmin International. “A lot of people think the only way to work at Garmin is by getting a technical degree. But we want to show that there are many pathways to build a career with us, including as a high school student. Additionally, we want to give students experience that will help them in their future and be better prepared for whatever path they choose to take.”
“They gave us a lot of training which prepared me for what I had to do,” Gamboa said. “I can say for other JAG-K students thinking about internships, if it seems hard at first, you will realize that it’s not that bad and you can learn what you need to. If you are scared or nervous, just realize that everyone goes through that.”
Woodall said the High School Work Experience program demonstrates’ Garmin’s dedication to developing the future workforce.
“Garmin’s continued success depends on investing in young people,” Woodall said. “This program is one of many at Garmin to ensure we are recruiting the best of the best by investing in our community and building awareness within groups that may not consider Garmin as an option.”
When the training program reached its end, Gamboa committed to work full time at Garmin for the summer. He credits JAG-K with helping him finish high school and prepare for success in the workplace.
“I was really comfortable around Ms. Polking because she had one of my older sisters in JAG-K in the past,” Gamboa said. “My sister told me that it would be good for me. It really helped me with getting out of my comfort zone and developing as a person.”
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 39 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.