JAG Program brings different learning environment to high schools

Originally Published: March 6, 2024

JAG Program brings different learning environment to high schools

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) – A unique classroom setting is taking place shape in Nebraska. JAG Nebraska has been in place since 2019, and their goal is to help high school students overcome challenges to achieve personal and career success.

Nebraska is one of 39 states that have a JAG program. JAG is a non traditional classroom that prioritizes voice and choice. The class attempts to identify what a students’ life will look like after high school. Each class is comprised of college bound and students who will go directly into the workforce.

JAG is a program for high school juniors and seniors. Hastings Senior High JAG teacher, Gretchen Brosman, said she tries to create a lesson plan that brings each student closer to their individual goal. Even though a lot of students may not know what that is when they enter JAG, word of mouth has been the way students learned about the program.

To get into the class, Brosman looks for students that need a little more guidance and that will truly benefit from the program.

“It helps them identify their own strengths and weaknesses as a person, as a potential professional within their career,” said Brosman. “What do they excel at? What do they maybe need to work on? And how can they use their peers to help them with that? So we work a lot with peer feedback.”

Brosman said they start each class with group discussion, and finish with their project based learning activities. She said that is usually in groups and requires students to collaborate. JAG is very inclusive community, and Brosman can only take 60 students each year. Adding, this class teaches students about life.

“These are things you learn throughout your adult life, especially in your early 20s and in that transitional period you’re learning a lot about yourself,” said Brosman. “If we can get a jump start on that here in high school and help them understand how to protect their mental health, learn about their self care habits, learn about their strengths and weaknesses and how to utilize them to the best of their ability they’re going to do well in their adult life.”

Brosman said JAG is slowly increasing the number of schools they’re in. She said JAG is meeting a lot of gaps in service, and Brosman has to keep track of students one year after they graduate, to ensure they’re in a good place.

This upcoming school year JAG will be in Kearney, and the number of programs will expand from 34 to 85; expanding their reach from approximately 1,800 to 3,000. JAG also changed some students view of high school.

“Originally, I did not like, I hated high school,” said Taven Coon, Junior at Hastings Senior High School. “I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to be apart of anything. I didn’t want to do like I didn’t want to go to college after school, I didn’t want to do literally anything. I just wanted to get through it and be done.”

If you have family or close friends that participated in the JAG program, you can start as a sophomore. Coon said she got to experience her first year of JAG last year with her older sister. JAG showed her what school can do for her. It also opened her eyes to more college and career options. But she isn’t the only current student with a JAG sibling who influenced her.

“I’ve been in JAG since I was a sophomore, and I got involved with it because my sister when she was a senior she was in the first JAG class here,” said Shayli Shoemaker, Senior at Hastings Senior High School. “She said it really helped her figure out what she wanted to do in life, where she wanted to go to college and really like refine her skills and she’s like you need to take this class.”

Shoemaker said she was surprised by the amount of individual attention each student receives and that your classmates have your back. Shoemaker wants to work in forensics post-college. Some students have learned a business benefit the class provides.

“I think the most important thing JAG has taught me as far being a leader, that networking is one of the biggest things, and not only have I grown to be able to talk to people but I learned that everybody’s human,” said Jayda Garcia, Senior at Hastings Senior High School. “From the CEO to just national officer to selected representative for like a state. It’s taught me that somebody may know somebody that know somebody to be somewhere that you want to be; and that’s it’s ok to kind of just go up to somebody and say hey and start a conversation and it’ll go really far from there.”

Garcia said JAG is dedicated to supporting the youth by preparing them for life and the process of what success looks like. Currently, they’re working on advocacy.

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