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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Jobs for Arkansas's Graduates


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In Arkansas, we work constantly to give all of our students the best possible opportunities to succeed in school and to find fulfilling careers. Over the years, we have shared that effort with a national group called "JAG," which stands for Jobs for America's Graduates. JAG's focus is on cutting dropout rates and boosting employment for high-risk youth in Arkansas and 33 other states.

As Vice Chair of JAG's national Board of Directors, I am pleased that JAG has recently been recognized for its effectiveness as a school-to-work transition program. Over the years, we have expanded the program in Arkansas because of the successes we've seen it bring to the lives of young people. This year, Jobs for Arkansas's Graduates received JAG's National Performance Award, the highest accolade the organization gives.

More than 90 percent of the students involved with Jobs for Arkansas's Graduates go on to complete high school. This is particularly notable, as we've made graduation requirements more demanding in recent years to strengthen our core curriculum. However, these students are seeing their hard work payoff beyond just diplomas. A year after graduation, more than 80 percent of these students are either working, taking college classes or both.

Unemployment among teenagers is the highest it has been in American history. Across the nation, only 26 percent of teenagers are working. But a year after graduation, more than two-thirds of Arkansas's JAG students are working full time.

This is a testament to the drive of these students, the dedication of their teachers, the strength of our state's economy, and the effectiveness of JAG's programs. The success that JAG achieves in schools demonstrates that employers can and will hire enthusiastic and well-prepared young people.

Today, Jobs for Arkansas's Graduates operates in nearly 80 schools and communities across the State. Our students are exceeding the highest JAG national performance standards. The program gets these results whether in Little Rock or in the poorest parts of the Delta region.

You can't help but be inspired by the stories you hear from young people involved in the program. Many have overcome almost insurmountable odds with the help of JAG Specialists and their communities.

I am proud of Arkansas's ability to bring the JAG program to ever-higher levels, even when a slow national recovery has stunted educational efforts in other states. Jobs for Arkansas's Graduates has proven that it works for our young people, our schools, and our employers of all sizes. Nationally, JAG has delivered consistent, compelling results for more than three decades now. It proves that when you provide our students with opportunity, they can succeed for themselves and our State, even when the chances for that success seem the slimmest. I look forward to JAG's continued success in Arkansas and across America.

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