Ariana Guzman is no stranger to community service or leadership. A member of the Tolleson teen council, Ariana was first introduced to JAG by coordinator Sonia Cortina shortly after the arrival of covid. For her, it was a way to continue to engage with her community and help with her own goals of self improvement and growth.
“I heard about JAG through Teen Council. When I first joined Teen Council, we held our meetings at the parks and recreation center in our city of Tolleson. That’s how Sonia reached out to all of us.”
JAG Works Tolleson is a community-based program rather than a school one. Students in the JAG Works program range from middle school age up to twenty four year old college students. As the program is not classroom based, JAG Works activities and workshops are held in community centers, where they are able to engage with students of diverse backgrounds. Despite not having a classroom to meet in, JAG Works participants are actively engaged in keeping their meetings consistent.
“So our JAG is a little different because we're not with the Tolleson Union High School. We're with the City of Tolleson, so it's JAG Works. Instead of being in a classroom, we hold meetings twice a month. And in the meetings we discuss JAG business, what needs to get done, ways that JAG can help us.”
Ariana’s involvement with her community, and a community JAG program makes her a great fit for JAG. JAG encourages student engagement through community service, outreach activities and giving back. JAG has several CDC competitions that encourage community service, and even support projects such as the Project based learning.
Interviewing her now, Ariana exudes confidence and professionalism, but admits that she wasn’t always this way. Like many students, she did experience shyness, and used her growth within JAG as a way to come out of her shell and improve her public speaking.
“I wasn't used to public speaking very much. With JAG, I've had to make a few speeches in front of an audience. I also tend to keep to myself. So with JAG, I've had to kind of get myself out there and speak to more people just one on one. I’ve been making new friendships and figuring out how to carry myself as well as possible.”
As a busy student, Ariana has a lot on her plate. She’s no stranger to responsibility, having already served as the mayor of Tolleson Teen Council. Along with balancing the trials that come with being a high school senior and keeping her grades up, she’s currently enrolled in a cosmetology school, with interest in improving her skills in this field. As such she is not always able to make each JAG meeting that is offered to her. However, her coordinator not only helps to keep her up to date, but offers advice and has become a source of guidance, and friendship for Ariana.
“She's really good at her job. And she's really good at making us feel comfortable. Not just like we're going to the job coordinator, but that we could talk to her normally about our day and let her know what's going on with our lives. She makes you feel comfortable, and she just has a good aura overall.”
Ariana has no plans to slow down soon. Ariana is entering the second half of her senior year, balancing her busy schedule while keeping her grades up. Of her college plans, she hasn’t fully figured out exactly what she plans to focus on yet. Though, she plans to use her cosmetology skills to help support herself while attending school.
“Makeup has always been a passion of mine. I've always enjoyed it. But I do want to go to university, and right now I'm debating in studying law or nursing. So makeup is kind of just like a side hobby for me or something I could do to make money while I'm in college and still enjoy myself.”
For Ariana, JAG has gifted her a wealth of opportunities she might not have been able to do on her own. As a JAG Arizona State champion, she was one of the few Arizona JAG participants to qualify for the National Career Development Conference, and traveled to Florida with other winners to compete. She also was able to participate in other events within her community.
“The Tolleson Community Coalition is another program in our community. They like to get students from JAG to help out a lot and they also provide us with a lot of opportunities and donations for our program. I got to go to Florida with JAG. Those are all things that Sonia and JAG have provided me with. I would not have been able to otherwise.”
JAG works to encourage our students to engage with and give back to the community. Because of donations to our JAG organization, we are able to open JAG Works in more communities and schools and reach more bright, hard working students like Ariana. To donate to our JAG programs and support JAG’s expansion throughout Arizona, please visit our website here.