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JAG program allows students to shine

  • By Jennifer Edwards Staff Writer Times Daily

FLORENCE — On Tuesday afternoon, Lukas Stults stood outside a meeting room at Marriott Shoals rehearsing a speech he would give a short time later.

It was about success, and really how to overcome barriers to success.

Stults is getting the opportunity to make real the advice he wrote in that speech through the Jobs for Alabama's Graduates (JAG) program.

Stults' speech was part of the north district Career Development Conference for students in JAG programs at nine schools in north Alabama. At the conference, students compete in different job readiness skills contests, including public speaking, employability skills, interview, problem solving and decision making.

The top four competitors in each category will go on to compete at the state JAG conference against finalists from the south Alabama conference.

JAG is a program sponsored by the Alabama State Department of Education that focuses on providing skills training and mentoring to students who might need more guidance to reach their potential.

Mandy Nichols, JAG director from the state education department, said the goal is to get the students to high school graduation and get them prepared to enter the military, continue on to college, or go to work and be successful at whichever route is chosen.

The theme for the conference was "The Road to Success Is Always Under Construction," and Nichols said she hopes the students understand that.

"In life there are always barriers or roadblocks that pop up," Nichols said. "We hope the students have learned how to navigate around the detour and not get stopped."

Stults, a students at Central High School, said the program has helped give him direction and focus in high school. Stults is in his second year with JAG.

"Through JAG, I've been able to see something in myself that I didn't know was there before," he said. "School isn't about goofing off. It is about preparing for a future."

Hannah Hart, from Central High, said she started ninth grade a shy student who could not read an essay in front of her class. Because of JAG she has more confidence.

"I can actually talk to people without stuttering," Hart said.

And Aleia McKissak, a Wilson High School student, said she has not always made the best decisions and has suffered the consequences of those bad decisions. For her, JAG is about determination, perseverance and not letting those past mess-ups determine her future.

"I feel like my story could help people who might be in the same position," McKissack said.