Angela Mancilla stood in line along with her classmates, patiently waiting for directions during a fire drill. It seemed like a lifetime had passed while they waited there. As they all waited in the hallway, she wondered why these students to her right were wearing JAG logos. What is JAG?
She asked one of the students next to her about it. Mancilla recalls the enthusiasm they had as they described the career association class that “helps you find what you want to be in the future”. They even encouraged her to apply for her junior year. Little did she know, the next chapter in her journey of life would start in that very moment. Directions for a fire drill led to directions for her future success.
Shortly after applying for JAG, succeeding in her interview, and receiving an offer to add JAG to her class schedule for the next year, her junior year, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It was a time full of challenges and sacrifice. At the time, she had been attending school and working part-time, and while it seemed to be working – it was working until it wasn’t, and unfortunately her GPA took a hit.
“I wasn’t really getting that help here at home….They didn’t get to make it as far into their education, so it’s up to me,” Mancilla said. “As sad as it sounds, I had to quit my job just to focus on school. I didn’t know how to balance it out at first. At 16 years old, it was a lot of responsibility.”
With the emotional and financial support of her family and a network of her fellow peers in JAG to lean on, quitting her job opened up space for her to set a new goal: raising her GPA towards a 3.0.
In two years, from junior to senior year, she prioritized her grades above everything else and set herself on a path from a 2.3 GPA to a 2.7, four painstaking but worthwhile points more than where she had started. She was even able to work part-time again in her senior year.
While she credits much of her success to her perseverance and determination, she is also grateful for the positive and caring environment JAG offered her. It was during her time in JAG that she found an empathetic mentor through her JAG coordinator, Mrs. Wendy Paez Gonzales. Mancilla processed the grief of her first relationship ending and her stepdad leaving her family’s life while in JAG, and Mrs. Paez Gonzales was there every step of the way.
“It felt good knowing that I wasn’t going to be judged if I went to school looking like a hot mess. Mrs. Paez Gonzales was there every second of the way, not only that, if she couldn’t have been there, she was so nice about suggesting I take a walk in the hall to calm myself down for example,” she said. “She taught us different techniques for being kind and patient with ourselves. And we never really had anything like that…. If I wasn’t being treated nicely, I wouldn’t have wanted to be there.”
Mancilla also recalls the growth she experienced socially while engaging in JAG activities and events, “Whenever we went to events like the CDC, I was so nervous that we had to break apart and go to different parts of the event on our own. I always got into my head about having to talk to new people. But every time I did that, they were all so nice! They were literally there for the same reason I was. [My favorite part of JAG], besides the field trips, I would say was putting myself outside of my comfort zone.”
Looking back on her experience overall and the bond she formed with her coordinator, she commented, “Not only did [Mrs. Paez Gonzales] teach us to be good humans, she taught us to be patient and to be kind to ourselves…. She was my second mom.”
JAG and Coronado High School Alumna Angela Mancilla is now working full-time at Ulta Beauty and enrolled in Interior Design at Scottsdale Community College for this fall.
To learn more about the JAG Advantage: Trauma-Informed Care, Project-Based Learning, and Employer Engagement, see our student and alumni stories HERE