Jobs for America’s Graduates of Pennsylvania: Bridging the Gap Between Classrooms and Careers
January 06, 2021
Jobs for America’s Graduates is a state-based, national non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people who have experienced challenging or traumatic life experiences, in or outside of the school environment, to achieve success through high school graduation. The JAG program offers a continuum of support for students from middle school through high school graduation, on to post-secondary placements and/or establishing successful career pathways. JAG is a resiliency-building, workforce-ready program that helps students learn in-demand employability skills and provides a bridge to post-secondary education and career advancement opportunities.
In 2019, Jobs for America’s Graduates of Pennsylvania was incorporated as a statewide nonprofit committed to preparing young people to become college, career and workforce ready. JAG-PA’s mission is to bridge the gap between classrooms and careers by empowering young people to have a voice and a choice in their academic, personal and career success. JAG-PA uses a holistic approach with young people in achieving a high school diploma/GED, continuing education, the necessary skills to obtain meaningful employment which will lead to a productive and rewarding career. JAG-PA’s vision is to continue helping students stay in school and enter the workforce with the skills and self-confidence that employers are looking for. JAG-PA strives to become a change agent, dedicated to preparing Pennsylvania’s youth to be a valuable part of building the nation’s strongest economy in Pennsylvania.
According to the Pennsylvania Evidence Resource Center, the Jobs for America’s Graduates program is a Strategic Intervention to resolve systemic and individual barriers to graduation. ESSA cites Jobs for America’s Graduates as a Tier 3 level intervention in the following three areas:
- Partnership with local business, community organizations and other agencies
- High School Graduation Rate
- College and Career Readiness
The JAG curriculum is perfectly aligned with the Future Ready PA Index’s College and Career Indicator. With the implementation of the JAG Advantage, JAG-PA provides students with instructional-based learning through hands-on processes and project-based learning, meeting the needs of all students through Trauma Informed Care, as well as providing exposure to the world of work through job shadowing activities, work readiness activities and employer engagement.
Students participate in engagement activities both in and outside of the classroom. JAG incorporates project-based learning that covers topics relevant to college & career readiness and skillsets required for employability, critical-thinking, decision making, and life beyond high school in general. Students benefit from the student-led JAG Career Association, which gives them insight into how leaders function in ways that yield results, meeting employer, community and personal goals. In addition to giving students information through instruction, they were provided the opportunity to hone their skills through practice in public speaking, interviewing, resume reviewing and writing, journaling, researching, and problem solving.
Guest speakers from various industries visited students to discuss their experiences, and trips were scheduled to expose students to colleges and universities, postsecondary training institutions, and major corporations in Pennsylvania. The JAG-PA’s Career Development Conferences is the highlight of our year. Students compete with each other with everything they have learn from September to May. The agenda for the Career Development Conference included collaborative exercises such as creative problem solving, decision making, public speaking, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, employability skills and demonstration of skill mastery through competitive events.
The National JAG organization requires quantitative measures of success, allowing state affiliates and local programs to track, review, and assess social and cultural impact on students, including academic impact among the participants.
Reports are run by the JAG-PA program manager and specialist at Olney Charter High School through JAG’s data management system. Since 2017, the JAG Program impact in schools and on student performance is impressive. The JAG Olney Charter High School Class of 2018-2019 achieved the following outcomes:
- 95 percent graduation rate
- 97 percent positive outcomes (meaning students are employed, in post-secondary education, or the military a full year after they graduate from high school)
- 100 percent full-time placement (of those in positive outcomes)
- 68 percent job placement (of those in positive outcomes)
- 100 percent full-time jobs (of those employed)
These outcomes at JAG-PA at Olney Charter High School resulted in JAG-PA receiving national recognition at the 36th Annual National Training Seminar. The “5 of 5” Award, JAG’s highest performance award, recognized the JAG-PA program for exceeding five goals set at the national level relating to graduation rates, post-secondary education, job placement and other significant milestones. Aside from data outcomes, JAG’s impact on the school culture is promising. JAG-PA students are leaders among their peers, and students not in the program are requesting to be in the program and take the JAG course. JAG students are featured for their accomplishments over this school year and are highly regarded by staff.
JAG offers the following program models:
- Middle School Program for 6th to 8th Grade
- Multi-Year Program for 9th to 12th Grade
- Senior Program for 12th Grade
- Out-of-School Program/Dropout Recovery (ages 15 to 24)
- Alternative Education Program for 9th to 12th Grade
- College Success Program