Omaha students learn workforce skills and navigate goals in elective course: 'They help me keep going'

Posted at 7:28 PM, Sep 27, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Jobs for America's Graduates, or JAG Nebraska, in partnership with United Way of the Midlands, get students ready for life and also helps them succeed in school right now. Students can enroll in the class as early as seventh grade.

Buena Vista High School is one of many OPS schools that has this year-long elective class.

"There are, like, one of my top supporters. They help me, like, keep going," Zyaire Tucker, a freshman at Buena Vista High School, said.

Tucker said JAG Nebraska is preparing him for public speaking.

"I wanna be, like, in the NFL when I grow up, so that's a lot of interviews. So it's basically teaching me how not to be shy in front of a camera," Tucker said.

JAG Nebraska helps set students up for success and helps them find their path.

"Help me more narrow it down, what I want to do. That was just my major thing, that I couldn't narrow it down, what I wanted," said Abel Arellano, a sophomore at Buena Vista High School.

With hands-on activities like building balloon towers in groups, students are able to learn skills and tools that could be useful in the workplace.

"With the balloon activity that is basically helping us communicate, not just physically also verbally, and basically learn how to work together as a team, instead of individually," Tucker said.

The program has a 98% graduation rate, keeping students in school while developing employable qualities.

"What's successful is that they are able to provide their own insight of their voice and choice, into the curriculum, into what they are learning, into life, where a lot of the times they are not able to do that," Becca Bradley, program manager for JAG Nebraska, said.

In the second semester, they connect with employers in the community — whether through guest speakers or business tours.

"We are finding that the sooner the students are able to connect with employers, that's who they think of when they go to apply for work," Shauna Paolini, state director for JAG Nebraska, said.

Bradley said the growth over the year-long program is exciting to see.

"Seeing the actual conversations take place, that confidence, the self-esteem, the maturity piece of these students, is just warm and it's just fun to witness," Bradley said.

Both students said they plan to retake the course next year.

"JAG's not just about yourself, it's about how we can grow everybody at the same time," Tucker said.

Right now in the metro, OPS is the only district with the program. But JAG Nebraska wants to expand. If you are in OPS and are interested in the class, talk to your school counselor.

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