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JAG-K students compete at Virtual State Career Development Conference
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TOPEKA — Great Bend High School student Ashton Ensley has earned the opportunity to attend the National Student Leadership Academy (NSLA) in Washngton, D.C., later this year. Ensley was one of more than 200 students from Jobs for America’s Graduates – Kansas (JAG-K) programs across the state who participated in the organization’s annual State Career Development Conference (CDC), held virtually this year.

Winners of the 10 different areas of competition held on May 20 were announced on May 22. Another area student placing high was Hannah Baker from Russell, who placed first in a poster-designing contest.  

In past years, the State CDC competitions were held at a central location. Due to measures in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the competitions were conducted virtually. Ensuring that the competitions were held despite the pandemic was important to the organization said Chuck Knapp, JAG-K president and CEO. 

“It was really important that we support students and provide opportunities for them to showcase their skills,” Knapp said. “The virtual CDC was our solution to engage students and allow them to compete.” 

The 200 participants competed in events that showcase competencies attained in the JAG-K program. Competition in the same 10 categories was staged for middle school participants as well. 

High school students who placed in the top three of the four national qualifying categories – Employability, Public Speaking, Mathematics, and Project-Based Learning – earned the opportunity to attend the national event later this year. NSLA is an all-expense paid experience where students compete against students from JAG programs across the country.  

Students who qualified to compete at NSLA are: 

• Employability: 1st Keegan Grogan, Concordia; 2nd Natalie Radke, Garden City; 3rd Ashton Ensley, Great Bend 

• Public Speaking: 1st Chrishayla Adams, Topeka High; 2nd Atiya Gonzales, Highland Park, (Topeka); 3rd Lauryn Betts, Beloit 

• Mathematics: 1st Jonathan Rupe, Hays; 2nd Adam Herschberger, Newton; 3rd Citlaly Olguin, Highland Park (Topeka) 

• Project-Based Learning: 1st Blair Holliday and Alexas Amos, Holcomb; 2nd Curtis Wathen, Royal Valley; 3rd Zyah Smith and Cristina Velasquez, Washington (Kansas City) 

Three students who will represent JAG-K at NSLA as elected state officers are: President, Chrishayla Adams, Topeka High; Vice-president, Blair Holliday, Holcomb; Secretary, Nosteho Ahmed, Harmon (Kansas City). 

High school students also competed in events such as Entrepreneurship, Mapping My Future, Poster Design, Senior Portfolio, Students for Service, and T-Shirt Design. The winners of those competitions are as follows: 

• Entrepreneurship: 1st Ethan McDaniel and Rilee Horaceck, Goodland; 2nd Damaris Mireles, Wyandotte; 3rd Anjeline Lightfoot, Augusta 

• Mapping My Future: 1st Hannah Mertz, Salina South; 2nd Elly Gossard, Field Kindley (Coffeyville); 3rd Naelly Llamas, Washington (Kansas City) 

• Poster: 1st Hannah Baker, Russell; 2nd Myra Rangel, Washington (Kansas City); 3rd Dylan Creollo, Royal Valley 

• Senior Portfolio: 1st Hannah Mertz, Salina South; 2nd Aalana Samuels, Lawrence Free State; 3rd Marshall Perryman, Hays 

• Students for Service: 1st Aaron Johnson and Elijah Ballard, Schlagle; 2nd Isaiah Galindo, Goodland; 3rd Emili Quezada and Aliyah Marshall, Shawnee Mission North 

• T-Shirt Design: 1st Cheyenne Gordon, El Dorado; 2nd Jocie Shopteese, Royal Valley; 3rd Haley Reynolds, Hutchinson 

Teams were also awarded recognition based on their collective performance. The top three teams came from Salina South High School (1st place), Royal Valley High School (2nd place), and Kansas City Washington High School 9-10 (3rd place).   

Earlier this year, each of the eight JAG-K Regions hosted Career Development Conferences to determine those who qualify for state. Qualifying students were those who placed in the top three of each category at their Regional CDC.   

“We are so pleased that, despite the big change at schools in the spring, that a large number of our students still competed in the State CDC this year,” said Bev Mortimer, JAG-K senior vice-president of pro-gram development. “The Career Specialists moved quickly to make it happen virtually, and the students persevered through the changes to demonstrate their skills. Mary Guerra, JAG-K director of program management, should receive special recognition for coordinating the event.”