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Promising Results for Native American Students Engaged In Job Skills Readiness Program

Posted March 5, 2024, 3:15 PM. Updated March 19, 2024, 5:10 PM.

Participants have better attendance and are more likely to graduate from high school.

Dressed for success in business attire, dozens of Native American students proudly arrived at a statewide career development conference in Albuquerque this week ready to shine.

They were there to showcase their career skills and to compete against students from schools around the state. Participants had completed business plans, career presentations, service projects, and speeches – activities aimed at sharpening their skills and preparing them for their chosen careers.

The JAG-New Mexico, or Jobs for America’s Graduates program, is specifically designed to give students like these a leg up in the business world, and it seems to be working.

Over the last four decades, JAG – a state-based national non-profit – has collaborated with Albuquerque Public Schools and other districts to deliver data-driven, high-impact job and career training to 1,500 middle and high school students. Three APS schools - Del Norte, Cibola, and Rio Grande High Schools - offer the JAG curriculum to a predominantly Native American group of students. The Indian Education Program funds the course offerings in APS schools. JAG offers real-life career instruction and experiences with immediate results.

Data shows that  Native American students who participate in JAG have better attendance records than their peers who aren't enrolled in the program. They are actively engaged in school, achieve better post-secondary outcomes, and are more likely to graduate from high school than students not participating in JAG. These results align specifically with one of the newly adopted goals in the district's academic strategic plan, Emerging Stronger.

Native American students, Black students, English learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities make up about 70% of the total APS student population, and the district’s strategic plan is laser-focused on improving their outcomes.

“It’s inspiring to watch our students as they grow through the program,” said Esther Keeton, JAG-NM Program Director. “All our students bring their own unique and rich knowledge, customs, and even languages with them. They are rightfully proud of what they have already accomplished in their lives, and their new career and life skill achievements add to their sense of accomplishment and hope for the future.” 

The winners of this week’s competitions will represent their schools and JAG-NM at the National JAG Conference in St. Louis next month.