JAG students lend hand at Faith Mission
For a program that focuses on leadership development, career development, social awareness, civic awareness and community service, the holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to reach out and help those in need. That was something Franklin County JAG students took the opportunity to do in December for Faith Mission Outreach in Russellville.
Last month, both Phil Campbell and Tharptown High Schools JAG (Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates) programs teamed up to give back to the community of Franklin County. Students volunteered to have a work day at Faith Mission Outreach. JAG Coordinator Tina King said she was in awe at the energy and eagerness her students put into the service project.
“Not a single student complained or questioned their assigned duty; they just went to work,” said King. Students got busy hanging up clothes, sorting through clothes, putting donations out on the shelves and taking out trash, among myriad other cleaning and organizing tasks.
“For me, it was fun and challenging at the same time because there was a lot to be done,” said student volunteer Brieanna Jiminez, senior, from THS. “I enjoyed being able to give back. They help a lot of people around here.”
King said to her surprise, she began notice students weren’t only completing their given assignments – they were going above and beyond.
“They weren’t just doing what they were asked but so much more,” King said. “Instead of just putting new donated items out, students took initiative and began cleaning and organizing.”
“It was a very humbling experience and very eye-opening,” said JAG student Brooke Harbin, junior, from PCHS. “It was humbling to see the needs of other people.”
Fellow PCHS JAG junior Alli Swinney agreed. “I liked knowing what we were doing was helping other people,” she said. “I think we were all shocked at the need for volunteers.”
The JAG program found out that Faith Mission Outreach hasn’t had as many volunteers recently as in the past, which meant plenty of opportunities for the students to pitch in. “I don’t think they were expecting over 20 students, but by their reaction, they were happy to have the help,” King said.
And some students expressed interest in volunteering there again in the future.
“At some time in our life, we’re all in a place where we need to be helped,” Jimenez said. “If we can help Faith Mission, they are able to give to others.”
“It was fun helping other people,” PCHS junior Blake McAfee added.
There are 25 JAG programs in the state, as part of the overarching Jobs for America’s Graduates program. “Our JAG Programs at Phil Campbell High School and Tharptown High School deliver vital information to our students regarding employability skills development, job development, civic responsibilities and the importance of community service,” emphasized FCBOE Central Office Administrator Cynthia Forsythe, who coordinates JAG among other Franklin County Schools programs. “The skills and concepts from the JAG curriculum will help the students as they navigate through their life after high school, whether they choose the immediate work force, college, trade school or the military. We hope the students model the importance of civic duties and community service, and it is evident throughout their lives.”
Forsythe said 36 students are enrolled in JAG at Phil Campbell High School and 26 students are enrolled at Tharptown High School.
King said in addition to the National JAG curriculum, a student-committee is elected each year that assists in planning additional activities and events.
“This year, students have completed an extensive career investigation project, competed in a financial-readiness online simulation called the H&R Block Budget Challenge, have had a few guest speakers and participated in various community service projects,” King said.
And helping at Faith Mission wasn’t the only project for December. “Prior to the trip, students donated money to benefit the Franklin County Foster and Adoptive Family Association,” King said. “Before returning to school, we stopped for a little shopping spree. Each student selected two or three items needed for the Franklin County Foster and Adoptive Family Association Annual Christmas/Holiday Party, and items were delivered to the Franklin County Department of Human Resources.”
THS Principal Barry Laster said he sees JAG is an excellent program, with the ultimate value that it “provides job skills for our students that they will use for the rest of their lives.”
“With the skills learned from this class, our students have the opportunity to obtain rewarding jobs and to become productive citizens,” Laster said. And he is particularly proud that they have the opportunity to grow as citizens right away through projects like volunteering at Faith Mission Outreach. “By doing these types of projects in the JAG class, it helps the students to learn their civic duty to help others. I do believe that by donating their time at the mission, it made our students thankful for their own blessings in life.”
Superintendent Greg Hamilton also praised the positive program. “It teaches a lot of life skills and job-seeking skills, and that’s very important,” Hamilton said, adding that he was also pleased with the students and their giving hearts for Faith Mission. “I’m extremely proud of the kids at Phil Campbell and Tharptown for their civic-mindedness.”
King said her PCHS JAG students are now planning a memorial blood drive for February, “in memory of Kevin Swinney. It is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 14 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” King said. “The community is welcome – no sign-ups required.”
King said JAG at both schools also welcomes guest speakers on topics including career development, leadership development, social awareness, civic awareness and community service. Companies or individuals interested in presenting to – or hiring – JAG students can contact King at firstname.lastname@example.org.