Charleston JAG program receives national recognition
Kyle Johnson is the son of Ron and Carol Johnson of Pocahontas and a 2000 graduate of Pocahontas High School. Reprinted with permission
CHARLESTON — When Kyle Johnson started with the Charleston R-1 School District in 2017 he was given the task of starting the Jobs for American Graduates (JAG) program. In just a short time, Johnson has turned the program into one receiving national recognition.
The Charleston JAG program won the 5 of 5 Award, which is meeting the five criteria set forth by JAG National. Those five criteria are job placement, graduation rates, successful outcomes, employment and postsecondary enrollment. Johnson also received national recognition with four other JAG teachers, being named as Outstanding JAG Specialists.
The program was set to receive the awards at this year’s national convention in Las Vegas but due to the coronavirus, the awards ceremony was virtual.
“It wasn’t the pomp and circumstance of it all, but it was nice to see your work validated on a national level,” Johnson said.
Johnson doesn’t have to look far to see his work validated. Starting the program in 2017, Johnson said it fit what he was looking for.
“(Then principal) Coach Brett Blackman gave me a shot at a new program that really checked off a lot of boxes for me,” Johnson said. “Helping students who need a little extra help in finding out what they want to do and where they want to go after high school.”
There are 50 students in the JAG program each year, a number that is set forth by JAG National so Charleston can maintain a smaller class size and work one-on-one with our kids.
Johnson said the students learn valuable leadership, life and communication skills which will help them out in the real world. The program also
The program also does community service projects which include helping the Salvation Army during the Christmas season by ringing the bell at local businesses. The group also works with BJ Babb, who coordinates family nights at the Charleston schools and they bring in local wrestling promotion Cape Championship Wrestling a couple times a year to do shows for the community.
The main focus of the program though is job and school placement.
“These skills they learn help them to achieve what they want in life,” Johnson said. “We start with what is JAG, then move on to getting a job, keeping a job, and succeeding at that job. We want our kids to be leaders in the community, and people that give back one day.”
Johnson said he sees success in the program when students do well after or during high school. He said some students call a year or two years after they graduate either wanting some help with a job hunt or just wanting to catch up.
“The realization that they have someone in their corner even after they graduate helps them to move on with their life after high school,” Johnson said. “Seeing kids get into college or get their first job, and seeing their faces that they know they did something they can be proud of.”
Right away Johnson saw how the program could change lives. In his first year, Johnson had a students who was set to join the Army. As he went through the year, the student embraced what JAG was and became a leader in the program, helping other students while learning valuable skills that helped him win a couple of awards at their state JAG convention his senior year. He was also chosen out of 400 students to be the mock Speaker of the House in Jefferson City.
“He showed some amazing leadership skills being able lead a group of so many students,” Johnson said. “He later joined the United States Army where he currently serves in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a supply officer. We were able to go tour the facility last year, and enjoyed getting to eat lunch with him.”
After graduating for Charleston, the student wrote Johnson, thanking him for helping the student to become the man he is.
But there are many success stories. Recently, three Charleston JAG students received full-ride scholarships to Lincoln University as part of the 1804 Agricultural Program.
“These young men showed not only great leadership skills, but also achieving good grades in the classroom,” Johnson said. “They were leaders in JAG over the last two years doing community service projects, and getting to speak in front of the governor at different events. They worked their tail off buying into what JAG is, and when they do that, JAG really helps them get a leg up in the world.”
JAG is a national program that has served over 1.4 million people since 1980 and continues to help students succeed both in school and on-the-job and Johnson said that he enjoys seeing first-hand the difference the program makes in lives of students.
“I am blessed to be a part of such an amazing program that not only helps students to achieve their dreams, but also has allowed me to have the most amazing job ever,” Johnson said.