Success at rural Kansas schools requires adaptability and resourcefulness. School staff in these communities learn that flexibility and creativity are essential attributes if they are to prepare students for successful futures.
One Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) program in western Kansas is demonstrating adaptability and resourcefulness to bridge the distance between two schools.
The school district of Stafford, which has had a JAG-K program since 2013, entered into a partnership with the district of St. John-Hudson this school year to make the program available to the students of both districts.
Second-year career specialist Courtney Deyoe splits her days between the two towns that are separated by about 10 miles – mornings at St. John High School, afternoons at Stafford High School. The schools divide equally the cost of the program (about $12,000 annually), with St. John-Hudson also contributing a mileage stipend to Deyoe.
“We really emphasize that we are one program that combines the two schools,” Deyoe said. “In my mind, I view it kind of like a company with two branches. I’m splitting my time to guide the two branches toward the same goal.”
The partnership was discussed for a few years before it became a reality in the fall of 2022. Combining the schools allows Deyoe to work with a full roster of students in need of her assistance.
“In terms of the cost/benefit ratio, it’s working out amazingly,” said regional manager Patrick Dake, who previously served as Stafford career specialist for seven years. “It relieves that stress point of having to get a full roster from a small school.
“The benefits are obvious. It really helps to have a bigger pool of businesses and industries to draw from for employer engagement opportunities. The base skill level in both towns is going to increase, and hopefully will be a long-term benefit to the employers in the area.”
Deyoe said that the arrangement requires responsibility from the elected officers who represent the participants from each school.
“It’s essential that they really communicate with their peers,” Deyoe said.. “I try to put a lot on the students to be self-sufficient and take a lot of leadership. I told them ‘Because I may not always be here in the building, you have a leadership person to go to should you need something.’”
Deyoe said the student-led nature of the career associations in JAG-K programs is requiring the students to develop skills that will translate to the workforce.
“It’s growing their networking abilities and leadership abilities,” Deyoe said. “They are learning to take initiative to communicate with someone who isn’t around them daily. They are developing their writing abilities and employability skills.”
Dake said the schools at Stafford and St. John are demonstrating how a partnership might benefit other schools across Kansas.
“If two schools are really close in proximity to where it’s feasible, like these two schools are, it’s a really good alternative,” Dake said.
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.
JAG-K helps 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.