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New JAG Program at Ava R-1 Inducts Student Officers

On October 29th, Ava Middle School Students (left to right) Emily Hinrichs, Susie Bell, Denise Ames take the JAG oath to accept their positions as President, 8th Grade VP and Public Relations Officer for the Ava Middle School JAG Program. Photo by Michael Boyink/Herald

by Michael Boyink /

“I must choose a career appropriate to my interests, abilities and aptitudes.”

“My success is earned through my efforts at school and work.”

“Each individual has the responsibility to develop an appreciation for productive work and a respect for all careers.”

With raised hands, and with family members present as witnesses, approximately 25 Ava students agreed to these statements and a few others making up the JAG Career Association Creed on October 29th at the school cafeteria.

And by doing so, became the inaugural Jobs For America’s Graduates (JAG) class for Ava Schools. 

Forbes describes JAG as “the country’s most effective drop-out prevention program.”

It’s been around nationwide since  1979, and in Missouri since 1980. There are 58 other schools in Missouri currently with JAG programs.

“JAG is a true school-to-work program that teaches students through three

Angela McKay, Ava Schools JAG Program Coordinator leads the JAG initiation and installation event at Ava Schools on October 29th, 2019.
Photo by Michael Boyink/Herald

lenses,” says Ava program coordinator Angela McKay. “Project-Based Learning, Employer Engagement, and Trauma-Informed Care – which realizes that many JAG students have experienced trauma.”

While the program does prevent dropouts (95% of JAG students graduate vs. the national average of 85%), McKay says the program is about more than just getting more kids walking across the graduation stage.

“JAG offers teaching and modeling resiliency through showing our kids how to build healthy relationships,” she says. “How to develop a voice to advocate for themselves, teach them life-skills, and how to overcome their adversities.”

The JAG program isn’t for everyone.

“Statewide, it’s usually a combination of a difficult financial situation, a

Paul Kincaid, Executive Director of JAG – Missouri speaks to the students and parents at the JAG event.
Photo by Michael Boyink/Herald

challenging home life, and some kind of trauma.” says Paul Kincaid, Executive Director of JAG-Missouri. 

While the JAG program is just getting underway at Ava Schools, the program took a solid step forward this past week by installing student officers, who will be responsible for developing programs around the topics of leadership development, civic awareness, service learning, career preparation, and social awareness.

The JAG Middle School Officers are:

Middle School JAG President Emily Hinrichs speaks at the JAG Initiation and Installation event at Ava Schools on October 19th, 2019.
Photo by Michael Boyink/Herald

  • Emily Hinrichs, President
  • Ethan Nelson, 8th Grade VP
  • Susie Bell, 8th Grade VP
  • Kevin Fleetwood, 7th Grade VP
  • Abby Williams, 7th Grade VP
  • Denise Ames, Public Relations

The JAG High School Officers are:

  • Samantha Lawson, President
  • Michael Williams, 12th Grade VP
  • Rayonna Garner, 11th Grade VP
  • Kage Stewart, 10th Grade VP
  • MaKayla Byerley, 9th Grade VP
  • Logan Flores, Public Relations.

Several students spoke at the event and shared how they felt about the JAG program.

“JAG can help me overcome my fears,” said Kadence Merritt.

“My brother and I both ended up in JAG and we love it,” said Abby Williams.

“I didn’t know JAG could be this nice of a program.” said Robert Puchta.

And for program coordinator McKay?

“Coming to work every day is like a ministry for me,” she said.

Parents and students filled the Ava Cafeteria for the JAG event.
Photo by Michael Boyink/Herald