Student wins national award in JAG program


Photo by: Lane Phifer

Senior Hannah Vanderpool practices her speech before presenting to the JAG judges on Zoom. Vanderpool was selected to compete at the national contest.

Story by Katie Davis, Videographer, Reporter

Senior Hannah Vanderpool joined Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) her sophomore year and has since made her way into the top 10 for Nationals in the public speaking division of the JAG competition. Given the prompt “JAG has prepared me for a successful future,” Vanderpool put her own twist on her speech to include something more personal trauma.

“I figured that if it was my burden to carry the past with me for the rest of my life I ought to be able to turn it into something positive some how,” Vanderpool said. “It was hard but either way, it was kind of nice to be able to get it out and turn it into a good thing.”

JAG prepares students for the future and makes it more likely for them to graduate high school, go to college and get a job. JAG lasts one year after a student graduates to ensure that the transition into adulthood is smooth. 
Throughout that year, students are measured on the success of graduation rate, positive outcome rate, job placement rate, full-time job rate, and full-time placement rate. Pittsburg High School’s JAG program earned awards for all five categories.

“I think that it especially really made me realize just how great of a resource the class was,” Vanderpool said. “JAG influenced me to take a risk and try expanding my horizons.”

 JAG offers college tours, guest speakers and an insight on what to do for the future. Most years, students would be able to take a trip to Washington, D.C., to learn  more about JAG, but due to COVID-19, the trip was canceled.

Speaking out about her trauma and how JAG has helped her was new for Vanderpool. The class gave her an opportunity to rebuild herself. 

Vanderpool performed her speech through a pre-recorded video sent to judges for the state competition. Over fall break, she received news that she had made it to the top 10 for Nationals. Having only two days to prepare, Vanderpool was able to give her speech to the judges again over a zoom call. 

“I’ve never been super confident in my writing, so Nationals seemed almost impossible from where I saw it,” Vanderpool said. “Top 10 was more than I could have ever hoped for.”

Unlike previous years, Vanderpool was also asked to give her speech to her peers. JAG-K Career Specialist Jessica Avery hopes that with this accomplishment, Vanderpool will be able to inspire other students.

“I think that her achieving that for our program gives them hope and excitement that fuels them to all work a little harder to get to that level,” Avery said. “Seeing the way that this has fueled her confidence and helped her grow has made her feel like she is able to do magnificent and amazing things.”