Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG)


Organization Profile: Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) is a nonprofit youth development program dedicated to helping at-risk young people graduate from high school and make successful transitions to postsecondary education or meaningful employment. JAG has served more than 500,000 youth since 1980 and expects to serve 42,000 young people in 700 schools and other locations in 30 states during the 2010-11 school year.

JAG’s mission is to keep young people in school through graduation and provide work-based learning experiences that will lead to career advancement opportunities or to enrollment in postsecondary education. It does this by establishing and supporting state organizations and local school districts committed to implementing the JAG Model for both in-school and out-of-school youth. JAG Model programs deliver a unique set of services to targeted youth in high school, including 12 months of post-graduation follow-up services.

Program Structure/Design: JAG has model program applications designed to meet the needs of youth in middle school, high school, and youth who have dropped out of school. Trained career specialists work with schools, businesses, and community organizations to develop classroom instruction, extracurricular activities, and work-based learning opportunities. The JAG model includes these components:

  • Classroom Instruction – A trained Career Specialist provides individual and group instruction to 35 – 45 students in a class delivered for credit during the school day.
  • Employability Skills – The JAG National Curriculum equips participants with a minimum of 37 employability competencies and intensive career exploration and training opportunities.
  • Adult Mentoring – Specialists provide 180 contact hours and the individual attention at-risk students need to overcome barriers that stand in the way of personal and academic success.
  • Advisement and Support – Specialists provide guidance as students make significant career and life decisions and connect participants to other services in the community as needed.
  • Summer Employment Training – Job placement is provided and partnerships are developed with summer youth employment programs to maximize year-long learning.
  • Student-Led Leadership Development – Participants join a highly motivating student-led organization to develop, practice, and refine their leadership and teaming skills and serve their communities.
  • Job and Postsecondary Education Placement Services – Career Specialists provide youth with assistance and access to employment postsecondary education opportunities to support students’ postsecondary goals and successful transition to those opportunities following graduation.
  • 12-Month Follow-Up Services – JAG provides no less than 12 months of follow-up services and support to participants after graduation or completion of a GED.
  • Accountability System – JAG utilizes a computerized system to track participants served, services delivered, and youth and program performance outcomes.
  • Cost Effective Approach – The average cost per participant is $1,600, considerably less than other programs with the same goals; funding can come from school districts, state appropriations, and workforce centers.

In participating schools, career specialists work closely with administrators and teachers to ensure that program activities and goals are integrated into each student’s educational planning.

In a typical model for high school seniors, the program includes nine months of services during the in-school period and 12 months of follow-up services after graduation, with no fewer than 60 hours of direct contact in classrooms during the in-school phase. The Multi-Year Program includes 30-60 months of services and is an open-entry, open-exit program, in which students are allowed to enter or leave as their needs change; youth receive no less than 50 hours of contact each year.

All models are designed to raise student aspirations, teach teamwork and leadership, and instill workplace values while helping young people successfully transition through and beyond high school. The program also works to increase the capacity of communities to assist graduates with effective school-to-life transitions.

Approximately 15 – 17 % of the students served in JAG programs have a disability or qualify for special education services. The specialists reach out to in-school and community resources to provide assistance in working with youth with disabilities. Youth with disabilities participate in the same classroom and career development activities as other students. JAG also has specialists who are certified to teach students in special education. There are JAG programs operating in Schools for the Blind and Deaf in several states, including Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, and Louisiana.

States of Operation:


School-Based Preparatory Experiences: The JAG national curriculum consists of 86 activity- and competency-based modules providing more than 860 hours of classroom instruction. Each module provides a math and reading assignment to improve basic skills. A pre- and post-test assessment provides a method for documenting competency attainment.

Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: The JAG National Curriculum equips participants with 37 employability competencies in career development, job attainment, job survival, basic skills, leadership and self development, and personal skills that will prepare them for the workplace. JAG Multi-Year Program participants may receive as many as 86 competencies identified by JAG. Job placement services are also available to students during the summer months and partnerships are developing with summer youth employment programs to support year-long learning.

Youth Development and Leadership: Program participants can get involved in student-led activities–sponsored by the National Career Development Association (–that build on the competency-based curriculum and provides opportunities for students to develop, practice, and refine their leadership and teaming skills. Participants are provided the opportunity to participate in regional and state career development conferences offering general sessions, career workshops, and competitive events.

JAG chapters include a student-led organization (called the Career Association for In-School Programs and Professional Association for Out-of-School Programs) and students have the opportunity to run for officer positions. The officers and committee members plan activities for participation surrounding five goal areas: leadership development, community service, social awareness, career preparation, and civic and diversity awareness. These activities provide a laboratory for participants to develop, practice and refine the personal, leadership and teaming skills that are critical to success in the workplace and in pursuit of a postsecondary education.

Connecting Activities: Career specialists provide advice, mentoring, and support as students make significant career and life decisions throughout high school. Based on the individual needs of students, specialists connect participants to professional counseling services to address more serious barriers, such as mental health problems, substance abuse, homelessness, and other issues. Specialists also provide individual attention to students who have challenges that prevent them from taking advantage of their high school education, completing requirements for a high school diploma, and securing employment or pursuing a postsecondary education.

JAG programs also serve as a school-based “one-stop center” for targeted youth to deliver academic and social services using school and community resources. Likewise, specialists assist graduates in the exploration of postsecondary education opportunities and show them how to navigate the financial aid process to pursue these opportunities.


Systems Change: Because of resource development and its network of 30 states in the program, JAG is able to provide curriculum, training materials, technical assistance, data collection, and evaluation effectively and efficiently. Its ability to respond to needs of states and local school districts is well known.

JAG has partnerships at national, state, and local levels. These include connections with Workforce Investment Boards, corporations, nonprofits, national business organizations, and government agencies. JAG also has effective fund raising capacity that has sustained and grown its programs since their inception in 1980.

Data: JAG has focused resources on the evaluation components of the programs using Electronic National Data Management System (e-NDMS) that:

  • Streamlines the data collection and aggregation process;
  • Reduces the technical requirements on JAG State Organizations and Local Affiliates;
  • Provides a continuous flow of data – especially employer data – for research, funding, and partnership development;
  • Balances the need for state and local control with JAG data needs;
  • Provides program leadership, managers, and supervisors with aggregate data for the purpose of decision-making and accountability; and
  • Allows JAG the opportunity to use aggregate data for site reviews.

JAG measures overall success in a number of areas, but it places emphasis on three foci: the number of 1) students who graduate or complete their GED; 2) students who have “positive postschool outcomes” (this includes postsecondary education, employment, or enlistment in the military); and 3) students who are employed either full or part-time. For Focus 1 and 2, JAG’s goal is 90% each year. For Focus 3, its goal is 65%. It regularly meets its goals in all three areas.

The JAG website details its programs, partnerships, data collection, and evaluation elements. There are also links to State Organizations’ websites with contact information for state and local specialists who work on JAG projects.


Independent Program Evaluation:
• Sum, A., and Heliotis, J. (1993). Comparisons of the March 1992 Labor Force and Employment Status of JAG Program Participants with Those of Non-Enrolled Young High School Graduates in the U.S. Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University. Findings are described in the following report by the American Youth Policy Forum:

Northeastern University’s study compared data for 8,200 students in the JAG Class of 1991 to national data using (1) a subgroup of 4,081 JAG 1992 high school graduates who were not attending a college or university or serving in the military, and (2) all U.S. high school graduates under 20 years old in March of 1992 who were not attending a college or university or serving in the military.

Compared to the national group, JAG participants:

  • were more likely to be in the civilian labor force (89 vs. 83 percent).
  • had a higher employment rate (68.7 vs. 65.8 percent).


Organization Name: Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG)
Organization Director: Kenneth Smith, President and CEO
Street Address: 1729 King Street, Suite 100
City: Alexandria
State: VA
ZIP: 22314
Phone Number: (703) 684-9489

Contact Person: Jim Koeninger
Contact Title: Executive Vice President
Contact E-mail: