Jobs for Arizona’s Graduates hosted their annual Career Development Conference on April 6, 2023. The conference, sponsored by APS, Choice Hotels, Prudential, Synchrony and University of Phoenix, was attended by over 700 high school students to compete in individual employability-skills events, team building, and leadership competitions. Students also attended various workshops geared towards student career interests based on surveys delivered in the JAG classrooms throughout the school year.
The conference is the culmination of the students’ year-long professional and leadership development activities in their JAG programs on school campuses and in communities throughout the state. JAG partners with school districts, the business community and the public sector to help students stay in school with a focus on graduation, academic achievement, youth empowerment, and career planning.
“Our students have been working hard all year to develop academic, personal, leadership, and career skills that will help them secure quality employment, and pursue further education or training immediately after graduation,” said Graciela Garcia Candia, Jobs for Arizona’s Graduates President. “The conference provides the platform for demonstration of these skills, as well as celebration and recognition of the accomplishments of these young people across their communities.”
After the competitions and workshops, students attended the Celebration and Recognition Luncheon in the convention center’s Main Hall. Where the conference heard remarks from the Chairman of JAG’s board, Kevin Walsh, and JAG President Garcia-Candia presented the 2023 Community Service Award to JP Morgan Chase.
Chase is represented on the JAG Board of Directors by Noreen Bishop Hill, who has served as our Board Treasurer for the past 8 years. Since joining the team, she has been a true Champion of JAG, securing both financial support and creating a pipeline partnership with Chase on multiple levels. In addition, Chase's hiring staff have provided interviews which have led to long-term employment for JAG students. Chase’s supportive staff and passionate leadership have made them this year’s Community Service Honoree.
Former Arizona State Representative, and currently SRP Senior Government & Community Relations, Diego Espinoza, presented awards for the morning’s competitive events as well as pre-judged events that students have been working on all year.
The conference also featured recognition of members of the University of Phoenix LEADS program. The LEADS students participate in monthly meetings, receive additional training in leadership development and mentorship, and play a critical role in planning and implementing statewide events including the Student Leadership Conference in the fall, Legislative Day at the Arizona State Capitol in the spring, and the Career Development Conference near the end of the school year. The Leads also represent Arizona JAG students on a State and National level including at the National Student Leadership Academy in Washington D.C. in the fall. The students who apply for LEADS position go through panel interviews and those selected as finalists attend a summer boot camp before being chosen as a Lead. The students who are selected to the program are responsible for taking the skills and knowledge they obtain back to their individual JAG programs throughout the year to share with their peers.
Kevin Walsh, JAG Chairman of the Board of Directors, believes the conference empowers students in a meaningful way. “Our goal is to give students opportunities and the knowledge to make decisions about their future,” he said. “It is always invigorating to see young people raise the bar of expectation for themselves and their career goals.” He said. Throughout the conference JAG students proved they are witty, creative problem solvers and not afraid of a little friendly competition.
“It’s important to give high school students opportunities to showcase their talents and leadership skills,” said Walsh. “The CDC is an exciting event that engages them in a challenging and impactful way while recognizing their hard work and accomplishments.”