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Helping Students Believe and Achieve

March 13, 2019

It's hard to believe in yourself when you don't have a support system encouraging you and supporting your efforts. For many students across Iowa, this is their reality. Thankfully, iJAG (Iowa Job's for American Graduates) is helping students believe in themselves, which leads to achievements they could only imagine before someone invested in their success.

iJAG provides statewide programs for underserved students who exhibit multiple barriers - usually stemming from traumatic life events - helping them to achieve success by graduating from high school and entering into careers and/or continued education. The program commits to working a minimum of one hour every day with each student to assure they are on track to graduate from high school and successfully transition into continued education or a career. iJAG continues support for the students for 12 months following graduation. The iJAG program has a 20- year record of success.

CFNEIA is investing in the organization's work with Iowa students. Since 2005, over $112,000 has been granted, including a $20,000 grant through the fall 2018 Black Hawk County discretionary process, to support the program in the Waterloo Community School District. iJAG has also received $8,000 in grants over the last three years from CFNEIA affiliate, the Cerro Gordo County Community Foundation, for its work in the Mason City Community School District.

"Without the critical funding from CFNEIA, launching new programs, creating a system of iJAG support while sustaining current programs would not happen," said, iJAG President & CEO, Laurie Phelan. "Because we are reaching students of promise sooner in Waterloo and Mason City, we will not only continue high rates of high school graduation, we will have even more student successes like Joseph's to tell." (see below)

The results for all involved, but especially the students, has brought great promise for a brighter future, with 100% of iJAG students in Waterloo graduating in the 2017-2018 school year and 96% graduating in Mason City during the same year. The success of all of today's students leads to stronger communities for everyone.

iJAG Impact: Joseph Putnam, Jr.
2017 Waterloo East High School graduate and iJAG participant

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"iJAG teaches you to become involved. I’ve improved life skills such as the way to speak to others and how to lead. The support I received and the resources iJAG gives significantly enhanced my learning process. Mrs. Bennett (Waterloo East High School iJAG Education Specialist) is constantly reminding me I am capable and she is always ready to help me achieve. To graduate and to be able to stand on your own two feet takes a strong foundation of skills that then allow you to move to the next phase of education and employment."

While in iJAG, Joseph was mentored by and had an internship at John Deere in Waterloo. Through those relationships and skills developed he also earned a scholarship from John Deere. He is currently attending Iowa State University and pursuing a degree in engineering.