Indiana, Kentucky governors push for more resources to help kids graduate, succeed

KY, IN governor pledge to grow JAG program to help students graduate, get a job, go to college
A program that helps at-risk students graduate and build a better future may soon grow, thanks in part to support from several governors, including Indiana's Eric Holcomb. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
A program that helps at-risk students graduate and build a better future may soon grow, thanks in part to support from several governors, including Indiana's Eric Holcomb. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – A program that helps at-risk students graduate and build a better future may soon grow.

During a national board meeting in downtown Louisville on Tuesday, leaders from JAG, Jobs for America’s Graduates, discussed how to incorporate JAG into more programs and schools.

For some students, getting from high school to college or into a career is a snap. For others, there’s not always a clear or easy path. That’s where JAG comes in.

“What JAG has showed me is that even though all my cousins, my aunts, my uncles are unemployed, has zero to no professionalism in them, I can be professional,” said Quion Lee, a senior at Louisville’s Doss High School. “That opportunities like this, to speak with governors around, it’s possible for me.”

JAG connects students like Lee to people who can and are helping get him to college, teaching him skills to find and keep jobs and ensure he’ll have the critical-thinking skills to succeed in life for years to come.

During the meeting Tuesday, JAG board chair-elect and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he hopes to see the program grow across the country to serve 150,000 students.

“The students that we’re talking about are in the lowest performing 20 percent,” Edwards said. “So these are the kids most likely to drop out, most likely to never graduate, to not get a job. They’re the most likely to be involved in the criminal justice system but, in fact, through the JAG program, 95 percent graduate. Eighty-five percent have a positive outcome, which means they find work.”

In Indiana, there are JAG programs inside nearly one third of the state’s high schools. Students in those JAG programs graduate at a 95-percent rate; that’s higher than other students in Indiana. The program works, Gov. Eric Holcomb said, but its need goes beyond these positive statistics.

“And when you look at students literally become inspired and then aspire to do something they never thought imaginable before this very program ... that’s why we’re all so relentless in our pursuit to expand it,” Holcomb said.

JAG students said the program has given them role models who believe in them and help them see they can improve their circumstances, now and years down the road.

“Even though you don’t see it, there’s other people that see your future for you,” Lee said. “So what JAG does is, it doesn’t change lives. But it gives opportunities for kids to change.”

Both Holcomb and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin pledged their support to increase the number of JAG programs in Indiana and Kentucky, so they can serve more kids in need of extra help in the years to come.

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