JAG Nevada Story
Since inception, JAG has helped change the lives of over 11,000 students in Nevada. This growth has been accomplished with state government and private enterprise joining together to create a diverse funding base for a program that yields 97% graduation rates and cuts youth unemployment in half among youth participants.
In March 2019, newly elected Governor Steve Sisolak included the funding for the JAG program in his recommended budget, and joined sixteen other Governors as a member of the JAG National Board. Governor Sisolak’s leadership is playing a significant role in the lives of JAG youth, and his leadership and vision is attracting more business and community partners to work with the JAG program.
Looking back to JAG’s inception in 2013, Governor Brian Sandoval pledged to bring Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) to Nevada after learning about the powerful impact the educational support model had on youth of promise in JAG states. At that time, the state was in the throes of deep economic recession and had some of the highest dropout rates in the nation. JAG was one of the few new enhancements proposed for that biennium as an investment for Nevada’s youth of promise.
That same fall (2013), the JAG nonprofit was established at the Governor’s direction under the leadership of Dale Erquiaga, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Frank Woodbeck, Director of the Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation (DETR). The establishment of a nonprofit was seen as the ideal vehicle for promoting public/private partnerships with the newly created state-funded entity. Together, business, nonprofit and the state have joined to ensure Nevada’s youth continue to thrive and succeed in the JAG program as they prepare to join Nevada’s workforce for the future.
North Las Vegas was selected by the national organization in 2016 to serve as one of two sites for Go-Deep, a national demonstration initiative led by JAG Nevada designed to prove the impact of the JAG model when implemented at a larger scale. Today, 12 JAG programs operate in five North Las Vegas high schools, and the results have been impressive, especially with minority students and students with other barriers such as credit deficiency and low income status.
JAG’s success in helping youth from the most difficult circumstances graduate and find college and career pathways has led to widespread bipartisan support from the Governor and legislature, and support from local governments, municipalities and businesses.
From small beginnings, the nonprofit today employs over 70 dedicated educators and support staff. The proof of this team’s success is in the outcomes. JAG's Class of 2018 achieved a 97% graduation rate, and an 89% rate of positive outcomes (students work full-time, attend post-secondary full-time or combine both on a full-time basis).
Led by Executive Director Cantú, the management team is responsible for carrying out the business of the organization, ensuring that the strategic direction set forth by the board of directors is followed, and confirming that the fiscal and programmatic elements of the program are carried out efficiently and effectively. Dr. Cantú is assisted by the Director of Finance and Operations, Debbie Tarantino, whose main role is to ensure that the organization operates in a fiscally efficient manner that complies with generally accepted accounting principles. Dr. Cantú and Ms. Tarantino have assembled a dynamic, results-driven team, whose performance is best demonstrated by the stellar outcomes of the organization.
Oversight of the program in a geographically vast state like Nevada necessitated that two offices be established to conduct the business of the nonprofit. The office where the executive director resides is located on the Charleston campus of College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. A satellite office located in Reno houses JAG’s Assistant Director who provides service and support to the programs in Western and rural Nevada.
The state of Nevada has been organized into 3 distinct regions for the purpose of meeting the local needs of the communities JAG Nevada serves. Region 1 includes western Nevada communities including Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Hawthorne and Fernley. Region 2 encompasses the largest geographic region and includes West Wendover, White Pine, McDermitt and Panaca. Region 3 is comprised entirely of schools in the Clark County School District and includes the communities of Henderson, Moapa Valley, Mesquite and Las Vegas.
School Advisory Committee
Each school principal assigns an advisory committee, which will assist the JAG Specialist in the recruitment of students who meet program criteria. Prior to hiring the JAG Specialist, the principal and members of the advisory committee work in concert with the JAG Nevada management team to recruit, interview and select the JAG Specialist. By interviewing and hiring the JAG Specialist jointly, the school administration develops a sense of ownership over the JAG Nevada program in their community.