A new program at Greenup County High School will help students as they transition into their future careers.
JAG Kentucky is an affiliate of a national nonprofit, Job’s for America’s Graduates (JAG).
The organization is “dedicated to reconnecting students academically by helping them overcome barriers to graduation and helping them transition into postsecondary education, the workforce or the military after graduation,” according to its website, jagky.org.
The organization is funding Greenup High School with $40,000 to hire a certified teacher to implement the program. The district will finance the rest of the benefits and other needs to have a successful JAG program.
“It’s going to be reoccurring every year. As long as we do well with the program, they will continue to fund it,” said Traysea Moresea, Greenup County Superintendent. “It will be performance based, but I have a lot of confidence in that, so we’ll be fine.”
The program is built for students who enounter barriers to graduation. Moresea explained there are programs built for each type of student, such as special needs students, college prep students and gifted students.
“Some students never fit into those categories and so this is for just the every day student that could use a little extra support,” said Moresea.
The program is built to help at-risk students or those who may have barriers to graduation.
“JAG's competency-based curriculum educates students in areas of career development, job attainment and retention, leadership, financial literacy and numerous other life skills, all of which enhance a student’s employability and likelihood of success upon graduation,” according to JAG Kentucky.
Moresea said she initially attempted to contact the program two years ago, but didn’t hear anything. Over the summer, JAG Kentucky contacted the district and offered the program. The district had been selected as a high-need district in the area, said Moresea.
“We just feel really blessed to have been chosen,” said Moresea. “This was not something we had planned on receiving so this has been an added bonus.”
The district’s strategic plans have been focusing on adding soft skills and job skills to the curriculum.
“This ties right in with a few of our initiatives we already had planned, so I consider this one just a little extra blessing,” said Moresea.
Try Parsons, a new-to-Greenup teacher has been named to head up the program and will oversee the classes. Three of the classes he will teach on a daily basis will concern soft skills.
“Those are things that make you employable, such as showing up on time and shaking hands and making eye contact and putting down your cellphone and having conversation, and how to answer things politely and correctly,” said Moresea. “[Soft skills] make you a person that people want to hire, make you more employable.”
Parsons will then take class time to build relationships in the community. He will find community and business partners to help present a real world problem to the students, who will then be tasked with overcoming a challenge and practicing workplace problem solving, Moresea explained.
“It’s going to give our kids the opportunity to make some contacts with those businesses,” said Jason Smith, Greenup County High School principal. “Anytime we can build those relationships with our community and help kids and teach and train them on how to be a good employee and help them develop the work ethic that they need to be successful, I think it’s going to be a really exciting thing for our school, our community and our kids.”
The community is a big part of the program and will provide opportunities for students while attending Greenup County High School and after.
“I love the community involvement that is going to take place, allowing the students to feel like they can build relationships with business owners,” Moresea said. “I absolutely think after a year of people working and interacting only online that this is going to be a key component to getting our kids a little less involved in online learning and more so in working with people on a personal, face-to-face level.”
Beyond the job skills and community connections, Parsons will be helping students with their course work and certifications. Parsons will guide students through the paperwork and testing processes for the ATC programs such as machinery and welding, Moresea said. He will also have one-on-one and small group tutoring for two class times a day.
Parsons has been a math teacher for almost 20 years, which Moresea says is a great fit for the role. Tutoring is often needed in math, Moresea and Parsons both said.
“We know most students, regardless of what career field they go into, college algebra is usually the gatekeeper, unless they’re going in a math field, so getting them a good base of algebra and geometry is important,” said Parsons.
Parsons said he will check on their understanding, solidify it and help fill gaps. His experience in the subject is an opportunity in which students can take advantage.
Parsons has been at Ramey-Estep for 17 years working with at-risk students and doing some of what the JAG program will require.
“I think my experience at Ramey, with the culture of kids I had, and just building the connections and relationships, the switch of subject will be fresh, I’ll be teaching something new in terms of soft skills,” said Parsons. “I’ve got training for that, too, with professional development. Looking at it now, I’ve been preparing for this moment, so I’m excited about it, to see what’s in store for that, and see what kids we can help and hopefully dig a little bit deeper and help more kids as we get this process going.”
Parsons has had a whirlwind few weeks having interviewed with Greenup, then the JAG program and turning in his resignation with Boyd County. It’s only been a matter of days, but Parsons is excited and ready to learn more about the program. He has high expectations for the new program.
Parsons has already talked with JAG about establishing the program with such excellence that the district can add a middle school program and reach students earlier.
Parsons said trauma informed care will be part of the job, something he’s had experience with at Ramey-Estep. He explained he will work with students in “looking at themselves and what kind of trauma they’ve experienced and finding coping techniques and ways to overcome that.”
Smith said Parsons’ experience with at-risk youth and relationship building with students who have had issues or rough experiences makes him “a very valuable asset to our school” and will help students “be successful once they leave our school.”
The program’s success rate is extremely high with a 100% graduation rate, almost 89% full-time placement and almost 87% seeing positive outcomes in the class of 2019, according to jagky.org.
“We’re first of all very excited to have the program at Greenup County, we know it’s going to do some wonderful things for our students,” Smith said. “We’re going to teach them some things that aren’t normally a part of the curriculum. It’s also going to be a training opportunity … to learn some of these soft skills that they’re going to need in the workforce. I think the education along with trainings itself is going to be a really good program for our school.”
Parsons will soon be going through training to lead the program. He is ready to learn himself and take his experiences and give back to the students of Greenup County.
“The big exciting part of it is finding kids’ career choices and desires, what they want to go into, and creating connections with that community and following up with them in terms of their interest and their career and getting them connected to that so they can transition, find things they love and make a living off of it,” said Parsons.