Assignment: Education – JAG Program

A program offered at Tomah High School teaches at risk kids job skills

School comes easier for some students than others.

“I still struggle in my basic subjects; like my math and my English,” said Tomah High School senior Jordyn Lee.

But for Lee that doesn’t stop her from trying her hardest at school so she can get into college.

“I’m hoping to go to TC (Western Technical College) for the CNA (certified nursing assistant) program,” said Lee.

Jordyn’s goal is to one day become a pediatric anesthesiologist. But it wasn’t too long ago that Jordyn was headed down a very different path.

“During my freshman year of high school, I had a really tough time focusing on my classes,” said Lee. “I was failing just about everything.”

So, when sophomore year rolled around, she was placed into a program called Jobs for America’s Graduates, or JAG.

“I looked at my schedule and I didn’t even know what it was,” said Lee.

JAG focuses on students who are lacking credits, come from low-income families, or have barriers in their path to graduation.

“We like to call it a career and college readiness program,” said Edward Powless, JAG career specialist. “A lot of what we teach them is how to survive after graduation. We go over teamwork building skills. We go over job skills. We go over maturing issues. We go over applications, resumes. We go over interview skills. All of the things that will make them successful employees.”


One of the ways Powless teaches some of these skills is through service learning projects.

“This is our Toys for Tots Drive,” said Lee.

“Through these service learning projects, they do two things,” said Powless. “One, they start finding they are part of a bigger community. It’s not just about themselves. Helping others is very important. But also there is a networking aspect that takes place here. By meeting all these other people; by helping all of these people, they’re meeting other people. So, they start networking themselves.”

It’s through these experiences the students learn how their classes in high school can impact their future.

“It helps them relate the material in their other classes to real world,” said Powless. “It helps explain things to them. It helps open their eyes, and it helps them realize there is a great number of possibilities that exist once they graduate.”

“My sophomore year, I never thought I’d be where I am today,” said Lee. “Or if I would even be applying to college or looking at colleges.”

Lee graduates from Tomah High School in January. And, although there have been struggles, she is on track to start living out her dreams of working in the medical field.

“I feel like it’s changed me, definitely, for the better,” said Lee.