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JAG Nevada aims to give at-risk students a path to college, careers

Posted: 5:05 PM, Jan 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-01 03:48:05Z
JAG Nevada aims to give at-risk students a path to college and careers
JAG Nevada aims to give at-risk students a path to college and careers
JAG Nevada aims to give at-risk students a path to college and careers

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The JAG classroom at Chaparral High School looks like all the others, but it is much different than other classes at the school because it is designed to polish students who are "diamonds in the rough."

As the 15 students sit in pods, Ms. Tiara Blaise explains the next steps in their Shark Tank business project, but students say she offers them much more than a classroom lesson.

"She is always on top of me like a second mom," Junior Meshach Hawkins said of Blaise.

"I look at everyone in here as a family. Coach Weezy is like a second mom to me along with Ms. Blaise," Senior Raymon Webb said. "I know I come to them with anything."

The third-year instructor in the JAG program at Chapparal says that is precisely what she and her teaching partner aim for every day.

"My class can be a second home to them. They feel safe they can come here," Blaise said.

It is part of the JAG Nevada vision. The organization works with principals on nearly two dozen Clark County campuses to identify promising students who are struggling.

"Typically our students face about six barriers to their success," JAG Nevada Executive Director Rene Cantu said.

Some of those hurdles include low GPAs, excessive absences, and socio-economic barriers.

Raymon Webb is from Chicago and says growing up he didn't have high hopes.

"I'm from a place where a lot of people don't make it to age 18, so you live by the day and try to make the most of the day," Webb said.

That's exactly the type of student Cantu says JAG strives to help thrive.

"They may be diamonds in the rough sometimes, but you know with a little polishing they become our greatest asset," Cantu said.

That polish actually comes in the form of pressure from Ms. Blaise and other specialists in the program who refuse to let students like Webb fall through the cracks — teaching them dozens of skills needed in the classroom and in the real world.

"I've told them all, if I see that you all are ditching or you are tardy, I will escort you to those classes," Blaise said.

The students respond, saying it shows that someone believes in them.

"They know I'm not average, so Cs they won't allow that because they know my potential. So they want me to get there," Webb said.

The support doesn't end with the students getting their high school diploma.

JAG follows its students for at least 12 months after graduation to make sure they are succeeding, with 87 percent having full-time jobs or going to school full-time after completing JAG courses.

"I love when they reach out to me and tell me, I got this job," Blaise said.

The program isn't offered on every high school campus in Clark County, but Cantu said if parents think their children could benefit from the curriculum, they should ask their counselor or principal and ask what is available on campus.

What is Raising The Bar?

Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News will lead the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have a story idea, email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com.

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