JMG Offers RSU 18 Students Multiple Pathways to Success

Posted: December 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

December 5, 2015
The December 2nd RSU 18 board meeting had on its agenda a presentation highlighting one of its most beneficial and long lived partnerships. Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, or JMG, is a non-profit organization that was established by the Maine State Legislature in 1993 with the goal of identifying and assisting students who face barriers to education. RSU18 has been fortunate enough to have a JMG program since 1998. Last Wednesday six students and three specialists from the district spoke about the organization’s recent projects and the overall benefits that JMG offers to students in school and beyond.
Our district features three different JMG programs: a project and adventure-based program at China Middle School, a mandatory Freshman course that focuses on professionalism and skills needed to enter the workforce, and a second high school program that covers sophomores through seniors and focuses on career aspirations, leadership and volunteerism.
The China Middle School JMG program is led by specialist Ryan Sweeney, and has recently been a lot of work with the district wide Farm to School initiative. Students worked to build raised beds at both China Middle School and China Primary School, and helped with the Maine Harvest Week Taste Testing. JMG students also run the school wide recycling program and engage in volunteerism in the community throughout the year, including work at the Waterville Homeless Shelter and putting together the town of China’s holiday Giving Tree. CMS student Andrew Weymouth told the board that, “JMG has helped me realize how important it is to give back to the community.” Students can be involved in JMG all three years of middle school and the program also helps students transition to high school and maintains contact with them during their 9th grade year.
Ninth grade brings more opportunities with the Freshman JMG program taught by Lindsey Withee. The course focuses on career prep and is required for graduation. The eight-week course covers self and society, career research, career prep, and financial literacy. Students are also taught basic communication skills, etiquette, and the importance of volunteerism and social engagement. It is one of three such programs in the state and gives students a leg up on career prep. While Freshman year may seem early to be talking resumes and job interview skills, Mrs. Withee stated that her students often come back to see her at the beginning of Sophomore year to thank her for the skills that helped them get their first job.
The second high school program works with sophomores through seniors and is taught by Skip Bessey. In order to enroll in this course, students must already have completed JMG Career Prep and must have an interview with Mr. Bessey to ensure proper placement. The course is designed for students who face a certain amount of barriers that they need to overcome to succeed in school and in life. The program provides students with numerous opportunities to practice skills in collaboration and leadership, and encourages professionalism and civic mindedness.
Mr. Bessey’s group is currently working on a number of fundraisers and activities. The Coat for Kids raffle has the students selling tickets to provide coats to Belgrade Central School students in need this winter, and the MHS’s Holiday store is taking donations of everything from socks and mittens to framed pictures and cookbooks to help brighten Christmas for those who might otherwise go without gifts.
Finally RSU 18 JMG is also participating in the JOY (Jumpstart our Youth) program where they will award $1000 to one or more non-profits in the district. Students will learn stewardship, planning, and decision making as they review grant proposals, interview prospective non-profits and finally choose the recipient or recipients.
Since their first year, the state JMG program has helped over 25 000 students graduate and serves more than 5000 students a year. According to their brochure, JMG has a 96% student retention rate, a four-year graduation rate of 90% or better, and over half of JMG students enroll in postsecondary education within a year. According to the RSU 18 students who spoke at the presentation to the board last Wednesday, the program helped them become better students, better citizens, and put them on the path to success.

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