Bryan Cortez, a senior at West Point High School and a JAG participant, has been passionate about cars for as long as he could remember. It wasn’t until JAG and the Career and Technical Education program (CTE) when he began to see how his passion could grow beyond a job and become a career. Reaching this point in his journey, however, wasn’t easy.
Struggling academically in middle school, a JAG coordinator reached out to Cortez and presented the opportunity to explore how the program could benefit his goals and aspirations.
“I’ll be honest, I was a troubled kid. I wouldn’t do anything in class, and I was always disturbing class. A JAG teacher reached out to me and asked if I would like to join the program. I thought it sounded interesting and fun and that it would help me in the long run. So we started from there,” Cortez said.
Throughout his years in middle school and most of high school, JAG offered him opportunities to improve his relations with others, set the groundwork for improving his grades, and channel his outgoing nature through public speaking. JAG’s approach of seeing beyond a label such as “troubled kid” and cultivating a space for students to grow personally, academically, and professionally, is shown through the program’s emphasis on trauma-informed care, project-based learning, and employer engagement. An approach that has an impact far beyond program participation.
When Cortez lacked room in his class schedule to participate in JAG junior year, his JAG coordinator continued to serve as a mentor. Before Cortez’s junior year began, Mr. Klem presented an opportunity to join CTE, a high school workforce development program at West-MEC. West-MEC is a vocational and technical school in Arizona that offers industry-recognized certificates, including Automotive Technology. As soon as Cortez was presented with the opportunity, he applied “right then and there.”
Now finishing his senior year as a JAG member and second year in CTE, the benefits of both programs are paying off for him. Cortez is currently job shadowing at a Toyota dealership in Avondale and plans to continue working at dealerships when he moves out of state after graduation. In his perspective, JAG provided the soft skills to complement CTE’s technical skills, along with encouraging him to learn the life skills he needs for adulthood and his personal aspirations.
“I learned that I need to place the building blocks to determine how I want to grow.”
Interested in learning more about the benefits of a CTE and JAG partnership for participants’ lives? See Hazel Raymond’s story of how CTE and JAG presented an opportunity to bring her passion for art to engineering biomedical solutions and changing lives.
Learn more about how you can bring JAG to your school HERE