Program helping at-risk students succeed during COVID-19

Published: Apr. 26, 2020 at 12:36 AM PDT
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Distance learning will be the new norm for students for the rest of the academic year.

It'd be really easy for students to fall behind or lower school on their list of priorities.

But an organization around Northern Nevada is finding creative ways to help at-risk youth during COVID-19.

"Our students were really making some great strides this year," said Rene Cantu, who is the executive director of Jobs for Nevada's Graduates.

Now, more than ever before, the virus has forced the Washoe County School District to adapt. JAG, or as its known locally, Jobs for Nevada's Graduates, is helping students succeed.

"We are continuing to engage with our kids," Cantu said. "We are making sure that they're okay in the short terms as well as the long term."

JAG isn't your everyday curriculum. The program helps at-risk students get mentoring and career training. The Coronavirus has separated those students from their teachers. But that hasn't stopped the specialists from making an impact on their kids' lives.

"(Some) specialists pick up groceries and take them to a family," said Cantu. 'Go and pay the family a visit' is what we tell our specialists. We follow all the rules from the district. We do not give up when we can't contact a kid at first."

While teachers are making sure their students and families are fed JAG is also creating ways to learn across multiple platforms.

When COVID-19 hit, JAG sent donated laptops to some of its students who didn't originally have access to technology.

"Most of the households our students come from have other students attending schools in the Washoe County School District," said Jim Dahl, a regional program director for JAG. "So this one (laptop) donation has been able to affect three or four different students."

Lesson plans vary from live video interviews with working professionals to engaging projects students can pull up on their phones or laptops. While the material is all review and kids can only improve their grades the specialists at JAG want them to understand there's more to personal development than a letter grade.

"This is what's going to set you apart from everybody else when you're doing everything that you need to do even though you don't have to," Dahl said of the message he gives to students.

Members of JAG say the program has a 97% graduation rate. They hope that number continues to be just as high despite the adversity students are facing from COVID-19.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020