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SD Department of Education
Nov. 2020  
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DOE aims to expand JAG program in South Dakota

The Jobs for America’s Graduates program seeks to connect with students who have barriers to success and empower them to graduate from high school and move confidently toward the realization of their dreams. JAG-SD is a program supervised by the South Dakota Department of Education and is a proven program that supports students to stay in school through graduation. Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) is a state-based national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting young people of great promise. In its 40-year history, the JAG Advantage has proven to deliver results.

JAG-SD was established during the 2009-10 school year with pilots at Wagner Community School and Andes Central High School.

By the third year, the South Dakota Office of Indian Education began overseeing JAG-SD. Three programs were active in districts located within American Indian Reservations.

In 2012, four JAG Multi-Year program students from Wagner High School spoke at the National Indian Impacted Schools Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas and shared how the JAG program helped them in being prepared for the future.

JAG-SD ebbed and flowed through the years, but resilient JAG-SD Specialists and students always kept JAG-SD progressing. 2014 brought an expansion of JAG-SD along with the first state Student Leadership Conference. During the 2017-18 school year, six high schools and two middle schools had 237 students participating in their schools’ JAG programs.

In October 2019, Governor Noem experienced a moving visit to Wagner’s JAG program where she heard students’ powerful stories. Following subsequent student testimonials during the 2020 legislative session, Governor Noem fully funded a state director to help support and increase the impact of JAG-SD.

The 2020 Legislature also created a special donations fund for the program, and the South Dakota Department of Education is seeking to expand the number of JAG programs across the state.

There are currently JAG programs in five South Dakota school districts:

  • Andes Central
  • Bennett County
  • Smee
  • Todd County
  • Wagner Community
Beth Schneider, the new state JAG director, has begun facilitating regular meetings to give districts’ JAG specialists opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other. Schneider has also established a regular professional development schedule with at least monthly opportunities for teachers.

There will be a JAG-SD Christmas tree at the Capitol this year, students are participating in a video production contest and participating in a virtual career development conference this fall.

Kim Claussen has been a JAG specialist for eight years and started Bennett County High School’s JAG program. “It’s a program where you get so close with your kids,” Claussen said. “You help them get through school, you help them get through life’s trials, you help prepare them for the future.”

A testament to Claussen’s relationships with her students is the way tables turned when she recently contracted COVID-19 and needed to teach from home for a time. “I was doing lessons from home, but the way my students continually checked in with me to see how I was doing, I felt like I needed them more than they needed me,” she said.

“I’ve taught at both the elementary level and in adult education,” Schneider said. “What I see in JAG is a strong emphasis on the essential core of education for all ages: relationships. This program connects students to their schools and communities. A unique component of JAG is the relationship with the JAG specialists who stay in touch with students for a whole year after graduation to make sure those connections continue—to postsecondary and employment opportunities.”

The JAG-SD webpage has been updated with a wealth of program information. Interested in learning more? Contact Beth Schneider with the South Dakota Department of Education.


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