MPCSD to launch iJAG program at high school next year

School board approves program after receiving over $5K donation from Chamber member

The Mt. Pleasant school board approved adopting iJAG — Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates — for the 2019-20 academic year thanks to a member of the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance who donated $5,500 toward the program. The total cost for the program for the first year is $10,000.

iJAG is shown to increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates and provides one year of follow-up support for students after high school. They help match students with career opportunities, apprenticeships, colleges or the military.

John Henriksen, superintendent, reintroduced the possibility of the district’s participation in the program during a school board meeting on Monday, June 10. Henriksen said that he thought they should seriously consider the opportunity at the cost of only $4,500 to the school district for the first year.

If the district chooses to renew the iJAG program, the cost is $22,500 a year. It would be paid for through the General Expense fund.

“This substantially gives us a chance to see how iJAG fits in (with the MPCSD),” said Dave McCoid, school board president.

Tyler Rodgers, school to career coordinator with the Mt. Pleasant Community High School, said he thinks iJAG will target students who are at risk of dropping out of high school and could potentially encourage them to stay in school.

“When you listen to (iJAG representatives) talk about it, you can’t listen to it and be like ‘That doesn’t make any sense,’” Rodgers said. “The main thing is finding the right person. The sooner we can get that posted, the sooner we can make sure to find that right person.”

The educational specialist will be an employee of iJAG, but the MPCSD will be part of the interviewing and hiring process.

iJAG will bring in an educational specialist, who is an employee of iJAG, to teach up to 50 students over three to four class periods and perform one other duty assigned by school administration such as hall duty, lunch duty or advisory. Educational specialists offer guidance in areas of personal growth, academic achievement and careers and reach out to building faculty to ensure students in the iJAG program are up-to-date on class coursework.

iJAG has a 96.4 percent graduation rate and 90 percent of students after graduation go into the workforce, enrolled in college or enlisted in the military.

During a school board meeting in May, Kristi Ray, executive vice president of the Chamber, voiced her support for iJAG.

“A year and a half ago, the Chamber made a concerted effort to make schools a priority to prepare students for jobs,” Ray said to the school board in May. “We have about 300 jobs unfilled, and we’re trying to come up with everything we can to be clever.”