BY MELANIE BUCK –
Ouachita River School District’s Acorn campus has implemented a program that allows students to go to school and to work, all while earning credits to graduate and gaining a lifetime of skills and experience. Jobs for America’s Graduates, or JAG, as it is commonly referred, is a state-based national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who are most at-risk.
According to their website, www.jag.org, in more than three decades of operation, JAG has delivered consistent, compelling results – helping nearly three-quarters of a million young people stay in school through graduation, pursue postsecondary education, and secure quality entry-level jobs leading to career advancement opportunities.
Scott Bohlman leads the JAG classroom at Acorn High School and is excited to be able to offer options for students that are at-risk and also to those that only need a credit or two to graduate, but also want to earn their own income.
Within the JAG program, they have a classroom hour where they learn a variety of real-life applications and skills such as having a good work ethic, filling out applications and building resumes, interviewing, and budgeting, just to name a few. “My favorite part is the budget,” explained Bohlman. “That’s not something you get in a normal class. JAG students learn about loans, credit cards, building credit, etc.”
Attitude and effort in school and on the job is another favorite topic of Bohlman’s within the program. “We spend a lot of time on that and how it relates to keeping a job.”
He said there are currently 11 students at Acorn enrolled in the program. Once the student has completed their classroom hours for the day, they are allowed to leave campus to go to work. Each student must work a minimum of 15 hours per week. Bohlman explained that one of his students lives on a farm and the program allows her to complete her school work, go home in time to complete her farm chores, and then she is able to maintain a part-time job. Without the flexibility of JAG, she would be unable to maintain a job because of her other schedules.
The program began at Acorn in August 2016 and just received a $10,000 grant from the Department of Career Education for the JAG program and also their Alternative Education program, which Bohlman also teaches. “The whole point of JAG is to not feel like a classroom,” he explained. With the grant, they would like to include more office-like furniture in the classroom, as well as technology. “One of the things the kids like about JAG is it’s not like a regular class. We do work, but it’s all towards jobs, building real-life applicable skills.”