In its mission statement USD 382 says it will prepare students to graduate with skills to obtain a college degree, professional certificate and/or gainful employment.

That starts at the elementary level and encompasses the entire curriculum. One class at the high school, however, makes college and career readiness and employability skills its main focus.

JAG (Jobs for America's Graduates) celebrated its achievements at a pizza and ice cream sundae party this week, with students, their parents, and community partners in attendance.

JAG is a nationwide program that's been in existence since 1980. It's in its fourth year in Kansas, with 52 schools participating and plans for growth in the next two school years.

"Pratt is one of our outstanding programs," said Chuck Knapp, president and CEO of Jag Kansas, a not-for-profit organization that provides grants to schools to cover most of the cost of the program.

Funding comes primarily from the federal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program administered by the Kansas Department of Children and Families and private contributors such as AT&T, Archer, Daniels Midland Company, John Deere, Wal-Mart, Cox Communications, Amerigroup and others.

Knapp gave credit for Pratt's accomplishments to specialist (teacher) Carrie Goodheart and support from the school administration and the community.

In its third year, Pratt will be represented by the regional president, Hannah Coates, who also qualified to attend a national JAG conference in the public speaking competition, and regional vice president Abe Fernandez. Current enrollment is 42, freshmen through seniors. The class must have at least 35 students to receive the financial grant.

Pratt is one of seven JAG schools in the southwest region. Others are Kiowa County, Liberal, Holcomb, Garden City, Stafford and Kingman.

A first-year JAG student, Coates is a senior. She signed up for the program because it offered leadership responsibilities and the opportunity to connect with other students, while learning more about herself. At this point, she is certain of her career path — she wants to become a pediatric physical therapist and an EMT on the side. That will keep her busy, but she says she already is.

Hernandez is in his second year with JAG. The program has gotten him involved with more activities and helped him conquer a fear of public speaking and meeting new people. He plans to become a meteorologist, so he’s taking lots of science and technology classes, along with math. With the help of Goodheart, he will shadow a Wichita TV meteorologist later in the semester.He likes watching the weather and clouds and said, “the earth gives us more and more surprises every day.”

The class has invited guest speakers and taken trips to local businesses, including Joni’s Stitch by Stitch, Signature Style and Taylor Printing, and made college campus visits that include four-year universities as well as technical schools.

“All visits and trips are student-explored, meaning if a student is interested in a particular career/college, they set the trip up,” Goodhearted said. “I help them compose an email and they reach out to organize the trip.”

Classroom lessons focus on employability skills, which the students can practice in activities such as managing the district’s surplus property sale last year, and sale of commemorative bricks for the Pratt Public School Foundation this year. Students take on different roles, and apply and interview for the positions.