Coordinator Spotlight: Wendy Paez Gonzales at Coronado HS

JAG National Outstanding Specialist and Coronado HS Coordinator reflects on her 11 years with us.
August 29, 2022

After 11 years of serving as Coronado JAG Coordinator, Wendy Paez Gonzales’ passion for education and mentorship has only grown stronger. At the National Training Seminar (NTS) hosted by Jobs for America’s Graduates, she was awarded Outstanding Specialist along with Coolidge JAG Coordinator Michelle Gonzales. 

“I think that education has this profound effect on people for the rest of their lives….It’s a huge responsibility as an educator to remind yourself that you choose what you give these kids,” Paez Gonzales said. “So I choose to give my students respect and love and to remind them of their self-worth. I think that everybody in education has the ability to do that, and I think that is incredible.”

No day is the same as a JAG coordinator. From coordinating employer engagement opportunities to facilitating projects to supporting students with academic or life obstacles, adaptability is an essential skill for every coordinator. 

“You have to be open minded when you come into a job like this,” she said. “You can’t have any preconceived notions of what your job is, because you learn that your job is different every day. Even though you have a general idea of what to teach and what guest speakers you are going to bring, because people are different every day, you have to adapt.” 

With adaptability, there is space for curiosity and exploration. Each day in a JAG class presents a variety of projects, leadership development, and career exploration that offer something for everyone. Two of Paez Gonzales’ favorite activities to facilitate for her students are JAG-A-Palooza and interviewing skills.

JAG-A-Palooza is held at the beginning of the school year in August/September and it is one of the first chances for students to improve their presentation skills in front of 300-400 people (families, peers, and community members). 

Throughout the project, students gain skills in project management, leadership, and research. They collaborate on organizing the event and developing a presentation about the year’s events/activities to show at their booth for recruiting students and connecting with community members. 

Another favorite activity for her and her students is practicing interviewing skills. Students practice self-representation through body language and attire, presenting their skills and experiences, advocating for themselves, and offering feedback to their peers. Each student has the opportunity to be the interviewer and interviewee, which allows for them to apply critical thinking skills in real-time. 

“It’s doing something that will truly benefit them,” she said. “A lot of my students interview for this scholarship called ‘The Coronado Promise’ and it’s for any student that is going to community college. We work so hard for two weeks straight on these interview skills, on these mock interviews, and it becomes a little redundant. But what happens is that they go into that interview and they kick so much butt! It’s the best thing.”

All of JAG’s activities and events are not only meant to complement the curriculum, but they are also important real-world practice and preparation for life beyond high school. Along with facilitating lessons for the curriculum, she makes it a point to connect with her students beyond their role as a high school student. 

One of the life lessons she often shares with her students was one she learned while attending ASU and graduating with her bachelor’s degree. 

“I share this story, because a lot of students start college but they might not finish college,” she said. “Students like me, students of color, students who are first-generation and may not have that legacy of a college education….I remember I went to the restroom, and I heard a comment about me and my people and how we didn’t belong. At first I took that to heart and it broke me for a second. But then I remembered that I got accepted just like they did….I tell my students you belong in every room. If you are willing to work hard and dedicate yourself to something bigger, then you belong in any room.”

There are many reasons Coronado Coordinator Wendy Paez Gonzales has stayed with JAG for 11 years, and one of them is her belief in the power of education.

“When you partner with JAG or when you support the JAG program, you are supporting thousands of students who are just looking for someone to say ‘Hey, I see you and I support you in whatever path you’re taking.’ If more people supported programs like JAG, I think our graduation rate would be higher across the state….Supporting JAG is really supporting the state’s goals on education.”

The Class of 2021 stats are out! See how we achieved the JAG National 5-of-5 Award for the 20th year in a row! 

Learn more about Coronado JAG:

JAG Senior and Secretary Angela Mancilla Graduates from Coronado (jagaz.org)

Coronado High School Students Attend Leadership Camp at Tonto Creek - Jobs for Arizona Graduates (jagaz.org)

Author:
Kaylee Craig
Copywriter
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