The director of a new program at Pratt High School wishes the class had been available to her. Carrie (Pixler) Goodheart graduated from PHS in 2006 — on time and with decent grades — but without a clear direction for adult life.
She started college at Fort Hays State University in communications, switched to business but found that didn’t fulfill her creative needs and finished a degree in general studies — a “build your own major” program that for Goodheart included marketing, leadership and graphic design. After four years in retail, managing first a gift shop and then a women’s boutique in Hays, she’s back in Pratt, where she will inaugurate a JAG program.
JAG — Jobs for America’s Graduates — is a state-based non-profit organization with a curriculum to help students figure out what they want to do and give them skills to get there, whether in a job right after school or advanced training for a future career.
Developed 30 years ago in Delaware, it is in its second year in Kansas. Last year, 850 students were served in 25 Kansas schools. At enrollment, all students were at risk of not graduating; in the spring, 94 percent received their diplomas. After initial success, the program will double in the state for 2014-15.
JAG is available to school districts at no cost, except for providing a classroom and some technology. Costs for three years will be covered by a federal grant. Hopefully, at the end of that period, the community and board members will be convinced of its usefulness, Goodheart said at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
The daughter of teachers, Bryan and Susan Pixler, both at Pratt High, Goodheart never expected to find herself in the classroom. She’s confident, however, that her experiences will enable her to teach real world lessons. The answers to the usual question, “when am I ever going to use this?” will be readily apparent, because lessons will be relevant right now and to future goals.
She will teach three block classes and use the fourth block of the day’s schedule to make connections in the business community. The JAG curriculum includes classroom work aimed at developing competencies like leadership, self development, career development and personal skills such as time management, self-marketing and customer service.
“I feel this is something I will be able to hone in on, because of my personal experiences,” Goodheart said.
The class will also include job shadowing and field trips in Pratt and beyond and she will sponsor a club that will meet like other organizations at the school. Developing relationships between the specialist and students and among the students themselves is considered an important element of the program.
During USD 382’s one-stop enrollment last week, Goodheart interviewed students to find those for whom JAG would be a good fit. It’s not for the honor student who already knows she wants to go to K-State, but would be a real benefit for those not sure of their direction or who have some barriers that could interfere with success in the workforce.
The next stage of preparation may not be a four-year university. There are lots of vocational and technical options that Goodheart thinks many students don’t know about. There is not one direction, but 30 (assuming she has 30 students in the program).
“There are lots of success stories with JAG,” she said, calling attention to the website, JAG.org. Figures posted there indicate that nationwide, 93 percent of JAG participants graduate from high school and 77 percent are considered to have a “positive outcome,” in job placement and/or post-secondary education enrollment.