Each year, Jobs for America’s Graduates hosts the National Student Leadership Academy (NSLA) conference for student leaders from across the nation to learn how to make their voices heard in their communities and on a national level. Our 13 JAG LEADS attended the conference in D.C. this year from communities across Arizona, such as the greater Phoenix area, Tohono O’odham, and Coolidge.
From November 30 - December 3, the JAG LEADS were in for a jam-packed agenda. They met with the Clyde Group to learn about the importance of public relations and marketing for organizations like JAG and the impact of social media. Additionally, they attended the NSLA conference sessions to learn about approaches to leadership, advocacy, networking, and dining etiquette. During one of the conference sessions, three of the LEADS even applied their networking skills by taking the initiative to meet Jobs for America’s Graduates’ President and CEO Kenneth M. Smith.
“Being there opened my perspective into more of an adult life,” said West Point Multi-Year JAG Co-President Angel. “It shows you how good you have to be with your words, how you have to be social, and you have to be good at connecting because that will take you further and progress in life. It overall just gives you an insight into how the real world is.”
One of the highlights for the LEADS was meeting with state representatives from Congress. They had scheduled a meet-and-greet with Arizona 3rd Congressional District Rep Grijalva and 6th Congressional District Rep Schweikert in their offices. The meetings allowed them to learn more about the day-to-day on Capitol Hill and share their perspectives as community members (and future constituents).
For Frida Medrano, it was a moment where she had fulfilled an eighth-grade dream of hers. On a school trip to D.C. during that time, she had emailed Mr. Grijalva's office for a tour, and although she wasn't able to meet him back then, her second chance came during this trip.
“I would say it was very emotional, but I don’t even understand why. I think it was that I realized I was there in D.C. in the capitol and inside the office. Not only was I there, but I was speaking to him," said Copper Canyon JAG President Frida Medrano. "When it was my turn to speak to him, it brought back that memory of emailing him in the eighth grade, and I felt like I had come full circle. I felt really proud, and I thought of my parents. I started talking a little about my parents because I felt since they couldn’t be there, at least part of their stories should stay in D.C..”
By the end of the trip, the LEADS had attended conference sessions, toured monuments, and strengthened their bonds with each other.
“I didn’t think that far ahead with joining LEADS or with JAG that I would be flying out to Washington, D.C., our capital, and looking at all these monuments," said West Point JAG Co-President Abdiel. "It was satisfying and appealing for me because I went from not being so good at school and academics to being able to get flown out and meet all types of people. It made me think that anything could happen within this program, and I really have to stick with this program.”
JAG LEADS is available for JAG students who aspire to become changemakers before graduation. LEADS receive an advisor with which they identify opportunities for leadership development, community engagement, and having their voices heard nationally with other JAG programs across the country.
The Washington, D.C. trip and the community service/fundraising events LEADS have planned this year provide them with skill-building and community engagement that strengthen their local community ties and open doors to even more leadership opportunities for the future.
“One of my goals as a LEADS this year is that I want to build community and friendships, and just put people into work and hope that they can help the community,” said Tohono O’odham JAG Vice President Alena Antone.
Your donation makes opportunities like this possible for our LEADS. Consider contributing $25 or another amount today.
Read more about our other LEADS and their experience in the program:
West Point JAG Vice President/Secretary Jenna Flores joined LEADS to become a better leader and public speaker. Read her story HERE.
Shadow Mountain JAG President Noah Chapman joined to become more involved in his community and network for his future goal of running a business. Read his story HERE.