Cassville starts year with future of graduates in mind
Fortner: ‘Our students want to learn from the professionals in our community’
The Cassville school district has implemented a new program — Jobs for American Graduates (JAG) — to its curriculum, which aims to allow for a more in-depth focus on post-high school education preparedness.
Nathan Fortner, Cassville JAG teacher and wrestling coach, said he has been attending conferences throughout the summer to gather information for the program.
“So far, the students are all on board and love what they are hearing,” he said. “We are only in the first month of school, but I have given them an overview of the program and what the class will entail.”
Fortner said it is a class geared to help the students get a job when they graduate and have employability and survival skills for after high school.
“It can be something as simple as how to dress for an interview, how to shake hands and how to have proper eye contact,” he said. “We want our students to communicate effectively and learn things that they are expected to know when they are in certain situations.”
Fortner said there are 49 students on his class roster at the moment.
“We are only supposed to have up to 45 per year, but we let a few more in because they are so excited,” he said. “The students get to go on field trips a lot inside the community. We actually have a JAG club, as well, with a president and officers.”
Fortner said it is a student-led club, so he guides the students, but they will be the ones calling businesses to get guest speakers and whatever else they need.
“We want guest speakers to come and explain what they do at their jobs and what they look for when they are hiring,” he said. “Right now the class is offered to sophomores through seniors.”
Fortner said once the seniors finish their curriculum for the year, which they have to finish to graduate from the program, they will be out job shadowing.
“We will be scheduling that and tours of facilities,” he said. “These students will be involved with our community quite a bit and hopefully get the exposure and skills outside of the classroom to help prepare them.”
Fortner said he will also keep in contact with graduates for a full year after they graduate to help them with advice and to keep tabs on what they are doing as a support system.
“We aren’t trying to just push them out and have them figure the world out,” he said. “We want to guide them through the process of the next steps in their lives. I have about half that aren’t wanting to go to college, but they are talking about jobs similar to vo-tech types of fields.”
Fortner said the other half want to go to college, so the class will shift to help prepare the students for either direction.
“The JAG program has been in the state of Missouri for about five years now,” he said. “There are well over 100 schools that have it, so it is really starting to take off.”
Fortner said JAG is a national organization funded by donors.
“We will be going on three trips this year,” he said. “Students will be writing a 1,200-word essay to go to the Governor’s mansion, and they get to take their families to that, and then we will be going to [Washington], D.C., and that is all funded through the grant we got through JAG.”
Fortner said he hopes the students take home the employability skills that they will need on a daily basis.
“There is a financial part of the curriculum that will teach the students some survival skills that they need,” he said. “Information on things like how to build credit, buying a house and how to get a loan.”
Since this is the first year for the program, Fortner said he wants to let businesses know that this is happening, and students will be reaching out to them.
“Students will be calling out to them, and it means so much to these students,” he said. “Our students want to learn from you, from the professionals of their fields in our community.”
Fortner said he hopes there will be people who want help teach Cassville’s students and help guide them.
For more information about how to become a guest speaker or to reach out to the JAG program, people may call the Cassville High School office at 417-847-3137 or email Fortner at email@example.com.