INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Students brought creative thinking and public speaking skills to compete in the ninth annual Jobs for America’s Graduates career development conference.
“This is an amazing experience,” said Jeremiah Onobo, a 17-year-old Decatur Central High School senior.
More than 100 teenagers from 14 Indianapolis high schools competed. Zoey Lewis, a 17-year-old senior at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, is competing for a second time. She learned so much previously. She runs a coffee shop she created at her high school.
“Without JAG, I don’t know what I would do. My teacher, Mr. Young, he has helped me a lot with the coffee shop. When I feel like giving up, I come to him and he talks to me like ‘You have to go get it together. You can do this.”
Jobs for America’s Graduates, or JAG, is a work-based learning program designed to help students figure out if college or the workforce is best for them after graduation. The program introduces them to different employers, industries and careers.
Beth Bowling, the associate director of school engagement for Employ Indy, said, “Students have the ability to network, build relationships, but also compete in competitions like public speaking, critical thinking, financial literacy, entrepreneurship.”
In one of the hands-on sessions, Jeremiah and other students had 25 minutes to design and build working tape dispensers out of various materials.
“Engineers have it tough! You have to be really creative to be in there,” Jeremiah said. “I felt really proud to be among those people because I see they’re really smart.”
“It takes a lot of trial and error because not everything works,” said Ryan King, a 16-year-old 11th-grader at Decatur Central High School.
Beth Rovazzini, the president of B&W Plumbing and Heating, said the judges and organizers hope these students understand “that they never walk away from an opportunity and they never stop learning, not matter how old they are. You can learn something no matter where you go.”
Zoey, Ryan and Jeremiah each told News 8 they want to go to college.
The winners will get gift cards of at least $50. They will get to compete at the state competition on March 13 at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana.