Secretary's Column
By Dr. Melody Schopp
Department of Education

Wagner Community High School recently hosted South Dakota’s first statewide JAG Student Leadership Conference. This is an exciting development in our state for this highly effective program. Students heard from keynote speakers, participated in teambuilding activities, and competed in three areas: employability skills, public speaking and poster.

Jobs for America’s Graduates is now in five South Dakota school districts and is positively impacting the lives of almost 130 students who were at risk of dropping out.

JAG students often face significant barriers outside the classroom, including poverty and difficult family situations. Through JAG, they receive much needed one-on-one attention from their school’s JAG specialist. Specialists work to engage students in their schools and communities, providing vital connections. Students learn about leadership, employability skills, postsecondary opportunities and more. JAG students also develop close relationships with their fellow JAG classmates. Many students describe newfound hope and a sense of family when talking about JAG.

In coming years, the goal is to expand JAG to all South Dakota school districts with significant Native American student populations, potentially reaching almost 800 students annually. While the program is open to students of all backgrounds, the dropout rate is highest among our state’s Native students, thus the initial focus on these schools.

Reducing our state’s dropout rate has far-reaching implications. When students graduate high school and pursue postsecondary education or training, it improves their lifetime earning potential and provides an economic boost to the state by growing our workforce. Investment in JAG is repaid many times over when students succeed.

Thank you for your investment in students every day. Enjoy graduation season and have a wonderful summer.
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Reduced-cost dual credit program expanded
Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, select dual credit courses will be available to high school students in grades 11-12 at the rate of $40 per credit. This program has been expanded to include 11th and 12th grade students enrolled in any of South Dakota’s non-public, tribal and BIE schools.
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