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WSC starts JAG program

Thursday, April 8th, 2010
Posted by Roxane Molinari

Williston State College is unique in many ways, including the fact that it is one of only two college in the United States and the only college in the state of North Dakota which is taking part in the Jobs for America's Graduates, or JAG, program. WSC got the JAG contract in September and Luanna Fisketjon, who is on the faculty of WSC, was hired in November to serve as the ND-JAG Early College Success Program Career Coach.

The program is designed to increase the number of students who attain their academic and career goals and successfully transition from college into careers within the state.

Early College Success is "for students who have barriers," according to Fisketjon. "It can be 100 different things. People assume it's financial barriers, or for kids in trouble. But a student with a barrier could be a student who just lost a mom and needs a helping hand, or someone who's been in foster care, or who has family issues that are giving them a hard time. There are all kinds of things. We are here to help in situations of crisis, to be somebody in their life that will go that extra step."

Funding for the program comes from the federal government with funds disbursed by the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Fisketjon said. Students who participate must qualify financially. "This is the challenging part."

This semester, participants are taking a service learning class, working on service projects together. "Next fall, the Early College Success students will take freshman seminars together, so they can form a bond. When they're done with their first semester, they will have a group of students who feel comfortable together and can go on to successful careers or educational experience," Fisketjon said.

The program requires that they do some community service. "My class requires 10 hours of service to the community as well as six hours of class time," Fisketjon explained. "I will make some contacts, but they also make their contacts and follow up on it. There are students who have been mentoring other students through mental health issues, drug and alcohol additions, etc. One student will work at Opportunity Foundation doing service for them and two others are working with Community Action. We wanted them to find things that mattered to them. This really gives them a self esteem boost."

She also has all the students attend meetings, including city commission, park board, county commission, etc. "We want them to see that kind of service as well."

So far, Fisketjon thinks the program is going well and things are progressing. "We are here to see that students with barriers get the education they need to be successful adults," she said. "We can't make students successful, but we can help them learn to be successful."