A Helping Hand for Students Who Need It Most
November 15, 2021
November 15, 2021
By Robley Shelton Jones
What would you call a drop-out prevention program that seeks out at-risk and disadvantaged students, bolsters their skills, helps them graduate and transition into the work world—and graduates 95 percent of its participants? I’d call it a big success! You can call it Jobs for Virginia Graduates (JVG), a nonprofit affiliated with Jobs for America’s Graduates that’s been hard at work in our state since 1996.
JVG changes lives, like that of Chad, a Prince George County student who went from struggling student to high school graduate to a well-paid job as a forklift operator.
How does JVG succeed? In each participating school there is a teacher called a JVG specialist, funded jointly by JVG and by the school division, who works with individual students. The specialist builds relationships with students, offers trauma-informed instruction, and teaches employment, critical thinking, and teamwork skills. In addition, students get opportunities to interact with potential employers doing job shadowing, internships, and volunteer activities. JVG also offers a program for middle school students.
JVG differs from other drop-out prevention programs in two key ways: One, it’s highly accountable and, two, the JVG job specialist continues working with students to ensure their success after they graduate. JVG sticks with students, supporting them as they get jobs, raises, and promotions, continue their education, or join the armed services. Our organization has won JVG has won Jobs for America’s Graduates’ top award for program accountability, the 5 of 5 Award, for the past 23 consecutive years for achieving high student outcome standards.
There are now 56 JVG programs in Virginia, from Highland County to Northampton County and from Arlington to Danville. The good news is that, thanks to Governor Northam and the General Assembly, there are now funds to add new programs. Please urge your school superintendent to apply for a JVG $30,000 incentive grant (jobsforvagrads.org/incentive-grants) to pilot JVG programs in your locality and reach out to the students who most need help. There, you’ll find a sample budget, a job description for the JVG specialist, and an overview of the program.
Jones, a former VEA President and VEA Director of Government Relations, joined the JVG Board of Directors in 1996 and has served as treasurer of the organization for over a decade.