JAG-K Hires Former Participant as New Career Specialist at South

Paige Parker, right, returned to Salina South as a JAG-K Career Specialist. She is seen here with Chuck Knapp, President / CEO of JAG-K. Photo courtesy of JAG-K “/>
Paige Parker, right, returned to Salina South as a JAG-K Career Specialist. She is seen here with JAG-K President / CEO Chuck Knapp. Photo courtesy of JAG-K

When the Jobs for America’s Graduates – Kansas (JAG-K) program at Salina South High School needed a new career specialist last summer, an interesting candidate presented itself.

Who better to understand the impact JAG-K can have on students than a former program participant? And who better to catch the Salina South students who need help than a former star catcher on the school’s softball team?

The evidence-based program helps students prepare for post-secondary education and employment opportunities. JAG-K programs across the state, serving approximately 4,000 students, reported a 97% graduation rate for the class of 2020.

Paige Parker, a 2016 graduate of Salina South, was hired in July to take on the leadership of the JAG-K program when former career specialist Melissa Gates became the school’s new business teacher.

“Ms. Gates called me in April and said, ‘I have the perfect opportunity for you!” ”Parker said.“ It matches my talents and what I’m passionate about. always wanted to help people, and this allows me to do so.

Gates wanted to help find a replacement who would be qualified and passionate about helping students.

“After being a career specialist here for the past six years, I knew Ms. Parker would be the perfect person to provide a smooth transition for our students,” said Gates. “Her experience as a JAG student has allowed her to make a difference in the lives of her students.

A Career Specialist is the teacher who provides individual and group instruction to JAG-K participants in the classroom using the JAG National Competency-Based Curriculum.

“As a new specialist, Ms. Parker has done an incredible job building relationships and bonding with her students. There is no doubt that she has a passion for helping young people. I loved seeing her learn and become the young professional she has become.

Parker said that while in high school she suffered from chronic migraines and was affected by the deaths of family members.

“I didn’t do well in school. I went through a lot of depression, ”Parker recalls. “I skipped school every four years,” I was a passing student, but I missed tons of homework. I lacked motivation and found it difficult to focus on school.

“I had a hard time feeling like I belonged in a band when I was in high school. But JAG-K gave me this group where I could connect with my peers. When I arrived in the JAG-K classroom, I knew this was my safe space. No matter what type of day I was having, I could count on everyone to help me get better.

Despite his struggles, Parker has managed not only to remain eligible for the sport, but also to stand out in the softball and volleyball field.

“I kept a good line of communication with my teachers and coaches, letting them know I was trying and doing my best to manage my migraines,” Parker said. “Opening that line of communication let them know what I was dealing with and that I would catch up on my homework as soon as possible.

“After I learned to dialogue and defend myself in high school, I really continued in college. By communicating with my teachers, they understood that she really cares. She will work hard.

Parker played softball at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, where she majored in health and wellness. She is now working to pass on some of the skills she has learned through experience.

“I try to teach students to defend themselves and communicate effectively,” Parker said. “It could be emailing their teachers, working ahead, catching up on work. I show them how to stay connected when they are struggling.

Parker said she felt a “silent cry for help with mental health matters” in Salina South, a problem exacerbated by the pandemic.

“I really work on helping students recognize their emotions and tap into healthy coping mechanisms,” Parker said. “I want to give these students the things I wish I had at their age. How to deal with their emotions, and that it is normal to have emotions. How to feel comfortable with who they are. How to be themselves and use their gifts and talents.

Parker knows that having walked in their shoes, she can help the current students of Salina South.

“It’s great because I already know what to expect,” Parker said. “I saw a great example in Ms. Gates, and I carry the things she taught me into my teaching. I know the benefits that JAG can have for my students. I understand how important it is to listen to my students and let them feel heard, because I didn’t feel like I was heard as a student.

JAG-K is a multi-year school program for students in Grades 7 to 12 that offers tools to successfully transition students to post-secondary school, the military or directly into the workforce with marketable skills. Program participants face multiple barriers to success that their Career Specialist JAG-K helps them overcome through a nationally accredited, evidence-based model.

To learn more about JAG-K, visit www.jagkansas.org, “Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas” on Facebook and on Twitter at @JAG_Kansas.


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