Now in its second year, Frankfort High School’s Jobs for America’s Graduates program is helping students find a multitude of opportunities for postgraduate paths.
Implementation of the program, which is known as JAG, was unanimously approved by the Frankfort Independent Schools board in May 2018. As part of a five-year grant, the national JAG program reimburses the school district quarterly for two positions, called JAG specialists, to lead classes with students.
The program, which includes students from all grades at Frankfort High School and the Panther Academy, teaches students about skills they will need in their careers and what opportunities are out there — like going straight into the workforce, enrolling in a trade program or attending a university.
FIS Superintendent Houston Barber told The State Journal this week that feedback on the program has been positive and called JAG “a phenomenal way” for students to have access to college and career opportunities.
“They have to figure out what their passion is,” Barber said of the students.
Frankfort’s JAG program is the only one in Franklin County, according to the JAG Kentucky website. Currently there are programs in 25 Kentucky counties, serving over 3,000 students.
Marty Hammons, who joined Frankfort High earlier this year as one of the JAG specialists, said students are enrolled in a JAG class after meeting with a committee of school employees and determining whether the students meet certain criteria. The program is designed for students with learning barriers. For 2018 JAG graduates across the state, some of the top barriers for the group when they entered their school’s program were low academic performance, a record of excessive absences and being economically disadvantaged, according to JAG Kentucky.
Frankfort’s JAG program had about 35 students the first year, Hammons said. This year, 82 students are participating. Lessons include learning how to make a resume and submit a job application. Participants take monthly field trips to nearby businesses. Hammon said the curriculum, which is provided by JAG, focuses on topics like the importance of demonstrating commitment, understanding self-value and maturing. JAG also emphasizes one-on-one conversations with students each week.
“That’s what JAG is all about — just building these kids up and and then letting them know that it’s OK if you don’t go to college. There are so many other opportunities out there and just educating them on those. That’s what JAG is doing,” Hammons said.
Hammons said he feels like he has learned as much as his students have since becoming a JAG specialist. The FHS alumnus previously retired from a state government job. If JAG had been available to his generation, some of his peers may have had more resources and opportunities after graduating from the school.
“There has been a cycle, and I think that anybody that’s lived in Frankfort for a long time (could see it), of kids not knowing what to do or what avenue, so they fall into the trap of getting into trouble or possibly getting into an activity that they shouldn’t do,” Hammons said.
After students graduate, the JAG specialists follow up with them to see what they are doing and if there is anything they can do to assist them, Hammons said.
If businesses want to invite JAG students for a visit, Hammons said they should get in touch with the high school.