BCHS JAG student wins at regional, advances to state

Jobs for America’s Graduates gives high school students an opportunity to attend the Career Development Conference and choose one of the competition categories.

For the recent regional competition at the North Vernon Education and Training Center, Brownstown Central High School senior Gabe Edwards entered in employability skills.

That event provides members with the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience related to obtaining employment and requires them to prepare a cover letter and a résumé and participate in an employment interview with two or more judges. The event aims to inspire members to learn more about a traditional in-person application for employment.

Edwards said he was interviewed by a panel of six judges. Before the competition, he had to prepare a résumé, a cover letter and a reference sheet and pick a job for which he would like to be interviewed.

About an hour after he competed, Edwards found out he won.

“I was super excited,” he said. “I felt my communication skills were top-notch that day.”

Edwards received a certificate and will receive a monetary prize, too.

He now advances to the state conference on March 17 at the Ivy Tech Community College Culinary and Conference Center in Indianapolis. If he wins there, he can earn even more prize money.

“I am focusing on bettering my résumé,” Edwards said. “I am looking forward to meeting new people.”

JAG is a state-based national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping high school students of promise who have experienced challenging or traumatic life experiences achieve success through graduation, according to in.gov/dwd/jag.

It’s a resiliency-building workforce program that helps students learn in-demand employability skills and provides a bridge to postsecondary education and career advancement opportunities. They receive adult mentoring while in school and one year of follow-up counseling after graduation.

Currently, there are 130 JAG programs available throughout Indiana. The state’s program consistently graduates approximately 95% of participants, and many students choose to continue their education after high school, according to the website.

The program is funded through grants provided by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

This is Edwards’ second year in JAG. He said he first became involved when one of his friends referred him and told him a little about the program.

Last year, he competed in employability skills at the regional Career Development Conference but did not place.

“I would tell them to just join it, no hesitation,” Edwards said of encouraging other students to get involved with JAG. “It’s a great class, and it prepares you for the future, whether you’re going into college or the workforce.”

Ashley Shoemaker is the JAG specialist at BCHS. She had three other students compete in the regional conference: Madison Howard in career presentation, Lynnzie Miller in writing skills and James Wilson in cover design.

Only those winning a category advance to state.

“I am so proud of him and his determination to do well,” Shoemaker said of Edwards. “He spent a lot of time making sure he had the material prepared and practicing interview skills with others. He also has a lot of work experience with his job at Hoosier Christian Village that helps set him apart.”

She’s ready to see how he does at the state level.

“I’m looking forward to him getting to do something that he has never done,” Shoemaker said. “I hope that this continues to grow his confidence and make connections with other JAG members from across the state. I want him to learn that he is capable of reaching his goals through hard work.“