This school year, Forest City Community Schools and Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates have partnered to launch a program intended to increase graduation rates, improve workforce skills, and help students successfully transition to life after high school.
Up to 45 Forest City High School juniors and seniors will participate for academic credit in iJAG, which is offered during the school day.
“We are thrilled to welcome new districts and students to the iJAG family," iJAG President and CEO Laurie Phelan said. "We know we can make a difference for those kids who need a little extra support, a strong mentor, or an approach that is more hands-on than most traditional classrooms. Our job is to find out what students need to succeed and to help them access it. There are broad themes, of course, but our work looks different for every single kid who signs on to our roster.”
In a news release, Phelan said iJAG provides an engaging mix of mentoring, small group instruction, project based learning, and real-world experience with employer partners like John Deere, Principal Financial, and UnityPoint. She said the result is students who graduate with the hard and soft skills to begin a living-wage career or pursue post-secondary education or training that will lead to long-term self-sufficiency.
iJAG staff will continue to mentor students for 12 months after graduation, helping with job and educational placements, guiding graduates through life challenges, and celebrating with them when things go well. Even after students complete their postsecondary transition, they often stay connected with their iJAG specialist.
At the Forest City Board of Education's April Meeting, high school principal Ken Baker announced that the district's plans to join the iJAG program this school year.
One-third funding for iJAG will come from the state, private companies, and the school district. Baker estimated that the school’s cost would be $22,000. He said classroom space and a full-time staff person would be devoted to the implementation of the program.
While it will start with a focus on high school students nearing graduation, the district hopes to expand the program to include students in lower grades in the future.
iJAG is a 501(c)3 non-profit affiliate of Jobs for America’s Graduates. The organization assists students facing multiple barriers to success to graduate from high school and transition to continued education and careers. Since launching with six program sites in 1999, the organization has grown to nearly 100 sites serving more than 4,500 students and recent graduates each year.
Over its history, iJAG’s participants have overcome life challenges to achieve a collective graduation rate of 95 percent. One year after earning a diploma, more than 80 percent are in school, employed, or a combination of the two. The program is paid for by a combination of public and private support, including annual funding from the Iowa Legislature, school districts, and iJAG’s private partners.