From Tragedy to Triumph

As an employer, how are you feeling about the epidemic that is our high school dropout rate?  As an employer, how are you evaluating the quality of students who do manage to graduate from high schools in the communities where you have operations?  As an employer, would you like to have educated, motivated, enthusiastic high school graduates lining up outside your employment office ready to start their careers with your organization and committed to making a difference for you, your customers and your community?

If you’re like Verizon, AT&T, Archer Daniels Midland, McDonalds, Apollo Group and many more employers of all sizes, you’re already supporting the work of JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) in 32 states and 1,000 communities to provide support to the most at-risk high school students in the toughest high school situations imaginable.

JAG programs this year supported more than 43,000 such students and achieved a 94% graduation rate.  Let me write that again:  JAG programs this year supported more than 43,000 such students and achieved a 94% graduation rate.  In the high schools with the most disenfranchised students:  inner city schools, Indian reservation schools, forgotten rural schools, crime-ridden schools, underfunded schools, JAG is working a kind of magic.

At its Annual Leadership Awards Event last week in Washington, D.C., 300+ JAG student leaders and almost as many of their teachers came together to attend the JAG 2012 National Student Leadership Academy and to celebrate their success in overcoming all the odds stacked up against them. (Here‘s my review of last year’s event.)

Two student leaders took to the podium during the luncheon to talk about their journey “from tragedy to triumph,” as Darnell Willliams described his life experience.  Darnell, currently a college student interning in the South Caroline Department of Employment & Workforce, described how JAG opened a door for him.  “The door had a sign that said One Way:  Up!”

Sage Zephier, a senior from Wagner, SD (which sits in the Yankton Indian Reservation) has a 3.0 grade point average; scored a 26 on the ACT; is a three sport athlete in football, wrestling (state) and track (state) and will attend college in the fall to the study athletic training and psychology.  His journey from tragedy to triumph would truly make you stand up and cheer.

Both Sage and Darnell have battled the worst that a young person could face – and it would be completely expected for them to have fallen between the cracks of social and family services, education systems, tribal systems and community safety nets.  Except someone forget to tell that to Sage and Darnell.  And that someone was the JAG Specialist in their high school.  That’s the person who convinced these two young men – and thousands of other girls and boys – that they mattered.  That they had a future that included education, jobs, financial security, the ability to contribute to their community and the ability to make a difference for others.

In 2012 there are more than 43,000 young people with stories similar to Sage and Darnell who are beating the odds and succeeding in high school and planning to go to college, enter the military or secure a job.  These are kids we would not have expected to make it out of 10th grade, much less graduate from high school.

Since the first high school adopted the JAG program and curriculum 32 years ago, nearly 1,000,000 young people who most likely would have never been able to contribute positively to the economy have graduated from high school, gone to college, served our country in the military and started successful careers – all of which changed the employment and economic trajectory of their families.

So.  As an employer, would you like to have educated, motivated, enthusiastic high school graduates lining up outside your employment office ready to start their careers with your organization and committed to making a difference for you, your customers and your community?

If your answer is yes, then you know what to do.  Get involved with the JAG organization in your state.  Support it financially and sit on its board of trustees.  If JAG isn’t yet in your state, start a conversation with your Governor and get it going!  The contributions you make today to support JAG in your community will come back to your organization in the form of successful students who are ready to commit to your success – and their own success.  Young people like Sage and Darnell.  Trust me:  you’d hire them in a heartbeat!

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1 Comment

Filed under Apollo Group, Archer Daniels Midland, AT&T, China Gorman, High School Graduation Rates, JAG, Jobs for America's Graduates, McDonald's, Talent pipeline, Verizon

One response to “From Tragedy to Triumph

  1. Pingback: Youth Unemployment: A Growing Problem |

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