Nonprofit Spotlight | JAG invests in students to invest in future | nnbw.com

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Nonprofit Spotlight | JAG invests in students to invest in future

What is JAG Nevada?

Jobs for Nevada's Graduates Inc. (aka JAG Nevada) is a private nonprofit brought to Nevada by Governor Sandoval over three years ago to help students graduate and achieve their goals. JAG students graduate at higher rates than their peers and are exceptionally prepared with a tool box of workplace skills that lead to success at work, in postsecondary education and/or the military.

Having served 1,619 students in 2015. JAG Nevada has expanded to 43 schools with 54 programs across Nevada, and is now serving over 2,800 students in the 2016-2017 school year!

The state of Nevada has been organized into three distinct regions for the purpose of meeting the local needs of the communities JAG Nevada serves. Region 1 includes western Nevada communities including Reno, Sparks, Carson City, and Minden/Gardnerville. Region 2 encompasses the largest geographic region and includes Fernley, Fallon, Hawthorne, Tonopah, West Wendover, White Pine, McDermitt and Panaca. Region 3 is comprised entirely of schools in the Clark County School District and includes the communities of Henderson, Moapa Valley, Mesquite and Las Vegas.

The JAG program is possible because of trained, compassionate and energetic JAG specialists. Their day-to-day duties vary, but ultimately, they are responsible for teaching JAG classes and for following up at least monthly with the former year's graduates. These programs are student-driven, and specialists research different ways to reach students and help them achieve their personal goals. A specialist is not just a teacher, but also part mentor, part counselor and part facilitator.

Jake Merrill is a JAG Specialist for Spanish Springs High School and has brought his insights and experiences with him. Before becoming a JAG Specialist, Jake was a plumber and sewer technician for about 10 years. After this, he worked for a small charter school that specifically dealt with "at-risk" students, and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, that school closed unexpectedly at the end of the school year, and he found himself scrambling to find a district job. He researched the JAG specialist position, learned what the program was about, and became really excited about it.

"Let's say that I was definitely what you would call today an 'at-risk' student," said Jake. "My parents both dealt with drugs and alcohol issues and were young parents. They were both dropouts, and consequently, school wasn't a priority around my house. I was suspended a lot, expelled once, held back once, I spent some time as a runaway and homeless, and ultimately, barely graduated myself. I feel my experiences growing up lend me a unique understanding of the problems that so-called 'at-risk' kids deal with. I use my personal story as a motivational tool for JAG students all over northern Nevada."

By opening students up to the possibilities, JAG Nevada prepares them for the future and makes them excited about what is possible. Olga Garcia, a senior in the Reed High School JAG Program and student body president of her graduating class, placed first in Employability Skills at the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLA) in Washington, D.C., in November. She completed a resume, cover letter, job application and job interview. These skills she built during her time with JAG Nevada and will prove vital for her future.

"I really enjoyed the JAG program and the National Conference because it allows me to see my future and the ways I can achieve my goals," said Olga. "JAG allows you the opportunity to mingle with a very diverse group, adding in different mindsets and perceptions."

After graduation, Olga will become the first generation in her family to attend college, where she plans to major in social work and minor in women's studies. Her larger goals include starting her own nonprofit and opening a women's shelter locally before opening others internationally.

For more information about JAG Nevada and its success stories, please visit jagnv.org.