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School board hopes to expand JAG program
Cierra Wood to attend National Student Leadership Academy
new slt school board woods
Great Bend High School student Cierra Wood, right, talks to her instructor, Jennifer Hopkins, Monday at the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting. Hopkins is the new Jobs for Americas Graduate (JAG) program at GBHS. Wood will represent Great Bend and Kansas this month at the JAG National Student Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Great Bend High School student Cierra Wood is glad she didn’t listen to friends who thought the new JAG class would be “boring” and “stupid.”
“I was told last year that it was just a study hall but boy was (that) wrong,” the GBHS junior said. She trusted her instincts and enrolled in the Jobs for America’s Graduates class. Not only has JAG given her confidence and a reason to study, it is also leading to an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., after Thanksgiving.
Wood attended the JAG-K Leadership Development Conference in Salina and placed first in a public speaking competition, which qualified her for the trip to the JAG National Student Leadership Academy.
The school board first heard about Wood’s success last month when JAG Specialist Jennifer Hopkins spoke at its monthly luncheon meeting, hosted by the high school. Board members asked if Wood could attend a regular board meeting so they could congratulate her in person.
The board also voted Monday to explore opportunities for expanding the program here.

Headed to D.C.
Wood was one of 2,500 JAG-K students who had the opportunity to enter the public speaking competition, said Brad Lingafelter, the regional director for the program. “You should be very proud of her.”
Wood said she didn’t have a lot of confidence before getting involved with JAG, but now she knows that she can go to college and beyond in the future.
“This program JAG has done a lot for me. Last year I struggled a lot with keeping my grades up. I’m getting better slowly, but last year was like climbing a tree that was going to be cut down,” Wood said. “Everyone at Great Bend High School should have an opportunity to be a part of it. I think it’s a very good program and I’m very thankful. It’s an honor to represent Great Bend and Kansas.”
Asked what she is most looking forward to on her trip, Wood said “meeting new people” is tops on her list. It will also be her first time to ride in an airplane and she will get to see the national monuments.
At Salina, students were asked to write about how JAG has given them the power to control their futures.
“We were supposed to write from the heart and that’s what I did,” Wood said.
GBHS JAG-K President Yamile Hernandez also spoke to the board on Monday. She said Hopkins has gotten more students thinking about going on to college after high school. “She’s changed a lot of minds.”

Expansion of JAG-K
Hopkins said she would like to see the program expanded. JAG is intended to help students graduate and then pursue postsecondary education. Students attend job fairs and visit colleges. She works with students in grades 10-12, but would like to see the program split into grades 9-10 and 11-12. That way she can focus on preparing the older students for postsecondary education and a second JAG sponsor can focus on more immediate skills for younger students. Lingafelter said the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) partners with the Kansas State Department of Education. DCF provides 90 percent of the funding at this time, so a $65,000 program costs a school district about $6,500 a year. DCF wants to add 16 more JAG programs in the next year, and may do that again the following year, he said. So, if Great Bend is interested it has a good chance to getting a second specialist in the next year or two, although there will be competition for the spots, he said.

SJCF named district architect
In other business, the board named SJCF Architecture, a firm based in Wichita, as the district architect. It was one of three firms asked to give a presentation at a special work session last month.
Board members and Superintendent Khris Thexton indicated all three firms had excellent qualifications but they chose SJCF to help in the process of determining a master for capital outlay projects that focus on building safety, maximizing instructional space and overall general facility maintenance. The firm will also be involved in promoting community engagement in the process.

Other action
Other actions taken Monday include voting to have the artificial turf on the GBHS football field repaired by United Sports System in Wichita for a cost of $13,500; hiring Katelyn Cothran to teach fourth grade at Eisenhower Elementary; and accepting the resignation of Cindy Prescott, a nurse at GBHS and Park Elementary.