By Lorraine Glowczak
|Jen Dumont, JMG core specialist, works with her students|
at Windham High School on organization, study skills,
self-advocacy, the art of conversation, learning styles,
professional etiquette, self-care and more.
PHOTO BY LORRAINE GLOWCZAK
In the 1980s, studies indicated that American elementary and
secondary students consistently tested lower in science and math than their
European and Asian counterparts. As the 1990s drew near, schools in the US
continued to lag behind and the dropout rates were increasing. It was at this
point that the approach to teaching began to shift as experts in the field
recognized that a curriculum based upon a "one size fits all" model
was failing many students and the "college-bound only" culture was
leaving many unprepared for life after graduation. Determined to change the
tide of the faltering educational system, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) was
established in 1993.
According to its website, JMG partners with middle and high
schools as well as with colleges to help students reach their fullest potential
by offering classes and activities led by JMG Specialists. Areas of focus
include career preparation, college transition skills, leadership
opportunities, critical thinking, financial literacy, community service, and
"JMG Specialists can develop student-centered,
personalized education plans, delivered through a competency-based curriculum
focusing on academic knowledge, career development skills, and teamwork."
the website said.
RSU 14 is host to four JMG Specialists, three at Windham High
School that include Jen Dumont, JMG's Core Specialist, Julie Stone, High School
Completion JMG Master Specialist, and Kerry Kowalczyk, JMG College and Career
Specialists who runs a MELMAC grant focusing on all students' post-secondary
planning success. Windham Middle School is host to one JMG Specialist, Fernando
"JMG at the middle school level is designed to prepare
students with the skills and experiences they will need to not only be ready to
take their next steps for high school but after high school graduation,"
Presently, Hinojosa and his students are learning about
careers in the fields of culinary arts, carpentry, financial industry, and
entrepreneurship to name a few.
"As we learn about their careers of interests, we focus
on each student, helping them to become confident and effective leaders in
their future careers and the community."
Dumont, who has been a JMG Core Specialist for eight years –
five of those at WHS, said that the high school program has grown with student
interests in recent years due to the middle school's participation, fostering
high school success.
"When I first began teaching at WHS, I had a total of 30
students with just five classes," Dumont said. "Now, I have six full
classes with over 70 students participating."
Dumont said that she thinks of JMG curriculum as providing
tools for students' toolboxes for their high school career and beyond.
"Some of the skills we focus on are organization study
skills, self-advocacy, the art of conversation, learning styles, professional
etiquette, self-care and so much more," she said. "One of the coolest
things about this class for me is watching the relationships develop between my
students. I also get the opportunity to meet students where they are and teach
to them as an individual. Together, we get to take our perceived weaknesses and
change them into our strengths."
While Dumont teaches in a more "traditional"
classroom setting, Stone works with smaller groups, supporting them in building
their resumes, preparing for college, interviews, etc. She also works with
students from ages 16 to 24 who are facing barriers to graduation and are
credit deficient, meaning they require remediation or credit recovery to be
able to graduate on time. Thirdly, she helps students who have withdrawn from
the traditional graduation pathway and are seeking their high school
equivalency through adult education.
"Many of my students get individualized support to help
them achieve their goals in getting their high school diploma or
equivalency," Stone said. "All of our JMG programs provide a
continuum of support, providing monthly follow-up to our students for a year
after they graduate. This allows students a soft handoff to the next step,
whether it be post-secondary or the workforce. One of the neat things about JMG
is that, in our continuum of support, we have JMG specialists at some of
Maine's colleges (see website below for a complete list). This makes an easy
transition for our JMG students because before they even step onto a campus,
they have already met someone they can go to for help or advice."
Stone also helps students with organization, job readiness
skills (being on time, appropriate behavior, etc.), and setting goals, not only
short-term, but also long-term goals.
"Helping students visualize their goals and then helping
them to achieve those goals is probably one of the greatest parts of my job.
Seeing students set a goal at the beginning of the year to graduate, and then
to see them reach that goal is one of the greatest joys I have had in my
JMG Specialists are very enthusiastic about the curriculum
and the positive impact it is having on the students' school experience and
success – now and in the future. The students also share this same enthusiasm.
Senior Chase Connelly began the JMG program with Stone last
year. He said that JMG is helping him get caught up and on track to graduate on
"I've been able to focus a lot better and get more work
done since I joined JMG and I would have probably been on the five-year plan if
I had never met Ms. Stone and Ms. Dumont," Connolly said. "Having
teachers that are good at teaching and communicating with students helps a lot
because I enjoy going to my classes and getting the work done if the teacher's
chill or easygoing."
Connelly said that JMG will continue working with him after
he graduates. "They will help me after I graduate as I research different
schools and different types of jobs I can get after high school."
Other JMG participants share their perspectives. Junior Haley
Atherton has been a part of the JMG program with Dumont for the past three
years and her confidence has grown since she was a freshman.
"JMG has taught me to find my individuality – to dig
deep into who I want to become in the future," Atherton said, who plans to
be a Forensic Scientist.
Junior Shannon Bailey, who has plans to be an Equine
Therapist, said she feels more comfortable speaking up for herself since
participating in the JMG program.
"I have learned social skills and to advocate for myself
more," Bailey said of her experience this past year. "Before I took
this class, I was really quiet and didn't talk much."
Bryce Vance is a senior and has participated in the JMG
program said he feels ready for his future, making plans without feeling
"It's nice to be a part of a relaxed class while you are
doing your work," Vance said. "It is a goal-oriented class and in the
making of goals helps me to prepare for the future."
Although JMG has been established as a successful educational
program for 28 years, they are always in transition to keep up with the ebb and
flow of education and students' needs.
"JMG is an ever-changing, growing, and innovating
program filled with school staff and specialists whose only concern is
students' success," Stone said.
For more information about JMG and participating schools: www.jmg.org <