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Second-year program at high school paying dividends

A high school program enacted last year is again picking up for students at Pahrump Valley High.

JAG, or Jobs for American Graduates, was designed to help high school students prepare to enter the work sector.

The program, dedicated to preventing high school dropout rates in the past 30 years, has helped upward of three-quarters of a million students stay in school and secure quality entry-level jobs.

Pahrump Valley High Principal Chris Brockman said the program has expanded to allow more students to participate.

“The JAG program has really grown and we have added sophomores, so now we have sophomores, juniors and seniors,” he said. “We added that because it is such a popular program among the students and their parents.”

Brockman noted the program now exists in Nye County through the efforts of Superintendent Dale Norton and JAG instructor Candice Mitchell.

“He was instrumental in bringing the program to Nye County,” he said. “From what I understand, we were one of the first rural schools to have a JAG program. I can’t say enough good things about Candice Mitchell, who runs the JAG program, which has been a huge success.”

The program hosted an initiation and installation ceremony at the high school last week.

Mitchell said at present, more than two dozen students are now participating.

“I thought everything went wonderfully during our first JAG ceremony of the new school year,” she said. “We had 32 students who were able to attend and I had about 10 students who are now working, which is amazing.”

One such student is Tyler Blankenship, who found employment after participating in JAG last year.

“Things are going great and I now have a full-time job,” he said. “Most of my job skills actually came from the JAG program and I would definitely urge other students to take part in JAG because it’s such a great program.”

Mitchell meanwhile said she follows the progress of students after they graduate from high school.

“I do follow up with all of the students in JAG after they have left high school,” she said. “I stay in touch with them at a minimum of once a month to determine what kind of progress they are making and a see if they need any additional help with anything. In broad-stroke terms, the JAG program covers basic life skills to help the students get and keep a job.”

As part of last week’s initiation ceremony, Brockman invited Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services Chief Scott Lewis to be the keynote speaker.

“Chief Scott Lewis obviously is someone who is very charismatic and connects with the kids,” he said.

“He has also been very supportive of us here in trying to make sure that we have what we need. He’s also instrumental in supporting our athletic events by having emergency technicians there, which is a huge support. He is a really great person.”

Mitchell noted the program is hosting a car wash/bake sale fundraiser next month to help pay for a special field trip later this year.

“We are having a fundraising car wash on October 1, from 9:30 a.m., to about 1:30 p.m. at the Allstate Insurance office on Highway 160 next to Nevada State Bank,” she said. “There will be a car wash and bake sale on that day so that the kids can go to the University of Nevada Reno campus because many have expressed interest in checking out that college.”

Earlier this year, JAG students focused their efforts on assisting Pahrump’s Symphony Animal Foundation, a no-kill animal facility, where the students collected pet food and various supplies to benefit the nonprofit foundation.

During last week’s ceremony, the 2016-17 chapter officers were installed.

They include co-presidents Rosemary Diego and Matthew Mankins; among the vice presidents were Shaylen Morales, career development; Angel Gibson, civic awareness; Savannah Scharnhorst, community service; Ryan Blankenship, social awareness; Angela Hibbard, leadership development.

Secretary Isana Roberts and treasurer James Wilson round out the chapter officers.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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