Students learn life lessons while preparing for career competition

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – More than 100 Marion County students will be put to the test at a career conference tomorrow. They’re competing tomorrow at the JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) Career Development Conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The students will face off in categories ranging from public speaking to creative thinking. The top two in each category get a cash prize and move on to the statewide competition. But 24-Hour News 8 learned the students aren’t in it for the money, they’re in it for their futures.

If you want to know what you’re made of you’ve got to put yourself to the test. No one said it would be easy. Just ask T’ana King.

The junior at George Washington Community High School, who is also in the JAG program, fumbled through her words a few times as she practiced her presentation for tomorrow’s JAG Career Development Conference. She’ll have to explain to a panel of judges why she wants to become a teacher or social worker.

“It is kind of nerve-racking but I feel as though once I know the information and obtain it…I can be the best I can be,” she said of her speech.

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“She’s been staying after and working on it tirelessly,” said Kiara Johnson, the JAG specialist who teaches King and 44 other students. “I’ll give her some suggestions but it’s up to her to take them.”

Another one of her students, Curtis Ferguson, will be emceeing the event. He too had a few slip ups as he practiced his lines.

“I tell them all the time you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be willing to fail,” said Johnson.

That lesson wasn’t lost on the teens. Not once did they mention wanting to win tomorrow.

“My fear is being around a lot of people, in front of a lot of people, so I’m not used to doing that,” said Ferguson. “So, but I’ll hope to become that fear, overcome that fear tomorrow.”

King’s response was quick and passionate as she said, “I want to network with people, I want to talk to people I’ve never talked to before. I want them to tell me and show me new things that I’ve never experienced before.”

Those mindsets epitomize the JAG program which helps at-risk high school students make it to graduation and find a career, and along the way realize what they’re made of.

“They inspire me every day,” said Johnson. “Especially the students who are going to the Career Development Conference tomorrow.”

The JAG program is available at 11 high schools in Marion County. Some students are selected for it, others sign up themselves.

King at first was hesitant to join the program, but couldn’t be happier now.

“It’s going to help you in the long run,” she said. “Even after you graduate your specialist is still following you along, making sure you have a job, making sure you have somewhere to stay.”

To learn more about the JAG program, click here.

To learn more about Employ Indy, the organization that oversees the JAG program locally, click here.