Jobs for Arizona’s Graduates Career Development Conference (CDC) held at the Mesa Convention Center on April 26 was 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. The conference was sponsored by APS, Arizona Coyotes Hockey Club, Honeywell, Integrity Staffing Solutions, and Synchrony Financial.
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.
Over 500 JAG students and participants were present at the event and came from middle schools, high schools, and community programs throughout Arizona located in Avondale, Casa Grande, Coolidge, Eloy, Glendale, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sells, and Wickenburg.
Each of these programs participate in at least one of 11 scholarship/recognition awards and 24 competitions at CDC. Competitions at the conference focus on employability skills, project management, team-building, finance, STEM, art and design, public speaking, and creative writing.
“Our students have been working hard all year to develop academic, personal, leadership and career skills that will help them secure quality employment, 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.”
In addition to showcasing their skills, the CDC also brings local and national employers to present their expertise and engage in discussion with JAG youth and young adults around a variety of topics and resources.
Employers such as Arion Care Solutions, Desert Financial Credit Union, AZ Pipe Trades Apprenticeship, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Per Scholas, and SRP, to name a few, participated in the Career and College Expo and informed students of current job opportunities.
Employer Partners such as Goodwill and APS also hosted workshops for relevant personal and professional development topics such as Social and Emotional Skills, Professional Services, Personal Branding, Career Pathways, and Self-Awareness.
After competitions and workshops, students and guests attended the Scholarships & Awards Luncheon in the convention center’s Main Hall. Joining students in attendance, 120 conference volunteers and community and business partners, as well as, employer partners, and dignitaries attended the luncheon festivities primarily led by long-time JAG Board Member Fred Lockhart, JAG President Graciela Garcia Candia, and guest speakers including City of Mesa Mayor John Giles, Arizona Coyotes Hockey Foundation President Xavier Gutierrez, and Corporate Commissioner Anna Tovar.
To begin the luncheon ceremony, a multi-instrumental recording of the National Anthem was played by a JAG senior from Paradise Valley HS and City of Mesa Mayor Giles welcomed the students and guests to the Mesa Convention Center.
Every year, the Community Service Award established in honor of APS is announced at the luncheon ceremony. Through this award, JAG recognizes an organization that has invested both human and financial resources in support of JAG youth. The recipient for the 2022 Community Service Award was Phoenix College. APS Instructional Designer and JAG Board Member, Vania Pacheco, joined President Graciela Garcia Candia on stage to recognize Phoenix College’s dedication of time, resources, and event space to support JAG events, such as the annual Leadership Development Conference and the Interviewing Skills Competition.
After the Community Service Award was announced, the time came for students to be recognized for their commitment to their future aspirations. This year, a total of $60,000 in scholarships was awarded to JAG students who applied for these prestigious awards.
Following a long line of student scholarship awards handed out by partner organizations and community leaders, the coveted competitive event winners were announced. Shouts of excitement filled the room as medals, trophies, and ribbons were handed to the individuals and teams who placed in the events.
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.” In his perspective, 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.”
The 2022 Career Development Conference winners include:
Community Service Award – Phoenix College
Program Cover Design – Esperanza Acosta, Tolleson Union HS
Carolyn Warner Legacy Public Speaker – Hazel Raymond, West Point HS
Career Associations of the Year – City of Tolleson JAG Works and Paradise Valley HS
Avant-Garde Program of the Year – Multi-Year West Point HS
Legacy Program of the Year – Coronado and Paradise Valley HS
Interviewing Skills Finalists – 3rd Place: Luis Alquisira, Tolleson Union HS; 2nd: Justin Balderrama, Wickenburg HS; 1st: Aliyah Harris, West Point HS