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Jobs for America’s Graduates Pays Dividends on Educational Investments

Class of 2016 Achieved Highest Employment Rate in Nearly Three Decades

Published 8/15/17

Perry Washington, who graduated this year from Morehouse College, became involved with Jobs for America’s Graduates at Gentry High School in Indianola, Mississippi, and credits the program as key to his success.

Jobs for America’s Graduates recently announced a 63 percent employment rate among its class of 2016 graduates, the highest in 26 years and more than twice the norm for students who come from low-income backgrounds. Entergy Corporation’s investment in JAG helped set the new success rate by offering better access for area youth to work readiness and higher-education programs.

JAG has affiliate programs in 34 states and is in 1,250 classrooms, including those in Entergy’s service areas of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“One of the best ways we can power life in our communities is by helping create jobs and prepare area residents to work in those jobs,” said Leo Denault, Entergy Corporation’s chairman and CEO and a member of the JAG board of directors. “Our partnership with JAG demonstrates how, by working together, we are opening doors to bright futures for our youth and boosting local economies.”

Jobs for America’s Graduates’ successful workforce initiative targets middle and high school students. Investments provided early in students’ lives with help from the Entergy Charitable Foundation are realized when they graduate high school, move into the workforce or higher education and become contributing citizens in the local economy.

Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi is chairman of the JAG board, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana serve on the board of directors.

JAG’s Mississippi program is a good example of the organization’s success. Dr. Ramona Williams, director of Jobs for Mississippi Graduates, an affiliate of JAG, said, “We are able to teach and implement the JAG curriculum through the school year and have our students work in summer programs to demonstrate what they’ve learned in the classroom.”

The JAG curriculum includes 87 competencies, from how to search for a job to workplace competencies, to learning about how to develop a career, said Williams. She added that students learn how to develop a budget from their summer program job earnings and learn important life skills and concepts that provide a foundation for a successful adult life.

“Schools are focused on passing tests, but the life skills are just as viable and important,” said Williams. “Knowing how to create a personal budget, be punctual in reporting to work and how to compare insurance rates and how to read leases for housing are examples of skills taught.”

JAG also provides certified job specialists who work within school systems and interact daily with program participants, explained Dianna Keller, director of the JAG Louisiana program. She calls specialists “the key to the success of our students.”

“By design of this program, specialists make the difference in the lives of students, especially for students who have access to the fewest resources and support,” Keller said. “Specialists guide and facilitate the academic, career and life success of each JAG-LA student. They are mentors, advocates, and friends.”

Jobs for America’s Graduates is the nation’s largest, most consistently applied model of dropout prevention and school-to-career transition for at-risk young people. In addition to the impressive 63 percent employment rate among its graduates, the class of 2016 also achieved the following results:

  • 95 percent high school graduation rate
  • 75 percent full-time job rate, which is tripling the norm for the population served
  • 90 percent full-time placement rate (a combination of work and college commitments that equal full-time)
  • 43 percent post-secondary enrollment rate

Entergy Corporation committed $250,000 to support JAG, which was part of the company’s five-year, $5 million workforce readiness initiative to benefit affiliates in the company’s utility service area.

Evelyn Edwards, vice president, corporate community development grant and reinvestment specialist for BancorpSouth in Jackson, Mississippi, said that she invests her time because of the data-driven results she has seen during her 13-year tenure with the Jobs for Mississippi Graduates board.

“I choose to serve because the program teaches the value of education and of professionalism,” said Edwards, past president and current executive committee member with JMG. “I want these students to know there are opportunities out there, but you must be prepared.”

She also said growing up in the Mississippi Delta, she understands some of the challenges these students face. “It’s more than just relating to circumstances. It takes heart from those who volunteer and work with these students. And it takes desire from the students to want to connect,” she said.

Perry Washington is a JAG alumna of the class of 2012 at Gentry High School in Indianola, Mississippi. He is a native of Moorhead, Mississippi, and graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in May 2017. He credits the Jobs for Mississippi Graduates program as key to his success.

“For me it was a place for encouragement and a challenge,” said Washington. “The tangible tools that we were given are needed in life.”

Washington said in addition to the skills, he had the opportunity in high school to hold leadership positions within the JMG organization, which gave him the know-how and confidence to lead in college. The JAG model provides 12 months of post-graduation follow-up services to help graduates secure jobs or gain access to higher education.

“The organization does not give up on you after high school,” said Washington, noting that the consistent support and the persistence of the program specialists and state staff helped him focus on his dream. He plans to attend seminary in the fall, and, upon completion, pursue a law degree.

“I owe so much to them,” said Washington. “My dreams would not have been possible.”

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