Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) is a state-based national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who have serious barriers to graduation and/or employment.

Two Ascension Public School employees were recently awarded for their efforts in the Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) program. Lowery Middle School's Monica Bell won the Peak Performance Award and Donaldsonville High School's Tarleshia Miles received both the Outstanding JAG Specialist and 5 of 5 Award at the JAG conference in July.

Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) is a state-based national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who have serious barriers to graduation and/or employment. JAG has operated for three decades, having delivered consistent results in helping one million young people stay in school through graduation, pursue postsecondary education and secure quality entry-level jobs leading to career advancement opportunities.
Students enrolled in JAG are automatically part of the JAG Career Association. The club goes along with all of the skills learned in class. Members are required to complete 15 hours of community service.
PEAK PERFORMANCE AWARD

Lowery Middle School (LOMS) JAG Specialist Monica Bell won the Peak Performance Award for exceeding the number of required contact hours with her students. Bell documented 217 total hours, going above and beyond the required 120 hours for the year.

Bell has been a part of Ascension Public Schools for 10 years. For the first four years, Bell served as a special education teacher at LOMS and has spent the rest of her time as a JAG specialist at the school.

Although she has spent the past 10 out of 28 total years teaching at Lowery Middle, Bell’s career in education began in Assumption Parish, where she taught fourth and sixth grade for seven years. She also taught fourth grade for 11 years in St. James and Terrebonne parishes.

Former Supervisors Theresa Rogers and Susan Vaughn shared information about JAG with Bell, and she decided to dig deeper through the internet before getting involved. Donaldsonville High’s Tarleshia Miles was also helpful toward Bell’s understanding of the program.

“The most rewarding part of the JAG program is being able to reach kids who have barriers, being able to see them overcome those barriers and things they struggle with,” said Bell. “My students have become my family.”

Bell would like other teachers who may want to get involved with JAG to know that it will be a challenge, but one that can and will be overcome. Especially as a middle school specialist, things may get challenging while students are not yet focusing on a career or thinking about what kind of job will support the lifestyle they desire. “In essence, you are planting seeds of resource in them. It is a process that takes time. Plant the seeds and watch them grow over the minutes, days, months and years,” said Bell.

OUTSTANDING JAG SPECIALIST & 5 OF 5 AWARDS

Donaldsonville High School JAG Specialist and Career Readiness educator Tarleshia Miles was recognized as an Outstanding JAG Specialist for her efforts in reaching out to local areas and businesses in New Orleans. She also received a 5 of 5 Award for keeping up the JAG database in job placement of students, postsecondary education, military involvement and dropout prevention rate.

Miles has spent the past 20 years in Ascension, teaching at Faith Academy for six years, serving as a paraprofessional, a library and guidance clerk for four years, and teaching at Donaldsonville High for 10 years. She has been involved with the JAG program for eight years and teaches career readiness, as well.

Miles was introduced to JAG when Ascension Career and Technical Education Supervisor Ronda Matthews offered the program to Donaldsonville High. “I enjoy it,” said Miles. “It gives me opportunities to reach out to parents, as well as kids.”

In her career as a JAG Specialist, Miles helps students with resumes and cover letters, and helps them decide what to do after high school. She invites guest speakers into the classroom based on what types of careers her students are interested in. Miles puts an emphasis on hands-on learning for all students, regular and special education alike, to teach them about real life situations in the career and financial world.

“I tell them my stories,” Miles said, “because I want them to know that no matter where you come from or who is there for you, there is always a way to be successful despite what you have gone through in life.” Along with connecting with her students, Miles says it is important to hold parent nights to keep them in the loop as well as take students on mandatory college tours.

To draw people to the program, Miles likes to bring Louisiana food and culture to conferences which involve nationwide JAG specialists. “People enjoy coming to Louisiana,” she said. She has brought Zapp’s potato chips to events as well as organized a Mardi Gras parade for teachers involved in the program.

“I do not think JAG is going anywhere, but I do want it to gain more awareness and support from the community,” Miles said. Along with Donaldsonville and Lowery programs, East Ascension High School is involved with JAG in Ascension.

For more information about Ascension Public Schools, visit www.apsb.org. For more information about Jobs for America’s Graduates, visit www.jag.org.