Virtually every senior who took the Jobs for Montana Graduates course at the Billings Career Center stayed in school and graduated.
Every seventh- and eighth-grader at Culbertson Public Schools as well as nearly half of the 92 high school students are enrolled in Jobs for Montana Graduates.
These two programs — one in Montana’s largest school district, the other in one of the state’s small districts — have been recognized by Jobs for America’s Graduates as among the best programs in the nation with the High Performer Award.
The state Department of Labor and Industry provides small grants to schools to assist with the cost of attending annual JMG student leadership and membership conferences, but local school districts are responsible for all other costs of the program, according to Drea Brown, state JMG director in Helena. The purpose of JMG is to help students find career paths suited to their interests and abilities.
In Culbertson, where few students ever dropped out, the great value of these jobs classes is showing students different career opportunities after graduation, said Principal Jerry Waagen. He credited longtime teacher Mary Machart for her highly positive and encouraging work. She teachers four periods of the jobs class daily, including one for middle school students.
Many of Machart’s class activities go outside the classroom. For example, last year her students hosted a dinner and prom for senior citizens, created an interactive bulletin board on a website, started a weekly newspaper for the elementary school and toured the Sidney Job Service office.
At Billings Career Center, teacher Joe Barbero “engages his students in meaningful projects and activities,” according to an award nomination from Principal Stan Barr. Barbero’s semester-long class helps students decide what they want to do with their lives. He teaches resume building, job interview skills, and workplace communication skills.
Barbero’s class was recognized with the High Performer Award for its 2008-2009 results. In that year, 140 students were enrolled. All of the underclassmen returned to school the following year and 97.5 percent of the seniors graduated with their class.
Those numbers compare favorably with the statewide program results. As reported last month in this column, Jobs for Montana Graduates was named No. 1 in the nation by Jobs for America’s Graduates. Statewide, the program is offered in 39 high schools and 13 middle schools. It had 1,157 students participating in the award year. The statewide graduation rate for participants was 95 percent.
Billings students recently shared their opinions of JMG with a Gazette reporter, saying:
“It’s a lot of fun.”
“It’s just a really cool class.”
“It’s actually a class we can use.”
If only every course received such praise! Congratulations to Billings and Culbertson schools for supporting high quality, practical career programs.