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Jobs for Georgia Graduates program helping students succeed
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Kathie Fodor of the Georgia Department of Labor at DCHS talks to members of JGG at a recent meeting at school - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

Dawson County High School students and members of Jobs for Georgia Graduates (JGG), Alondra Zavala and Ava Walker visited Johnson High School last week to celebrate the launch of the program at Johnson.

JGG is a youth development program that was designed to help students overcome obstacles as well as promote success rates in education, graduation and meaningful employment.

The Georgia Department of Labor, the University of North Georgia and Hall County Schools partnered to launch a three-year pilot program at the Gainesville school with hopes of expanding throughout northeast Georgia.

"JGG not only teaches students how to get a job (and more importantly how to keep it) but also pushes them to apply for colleges and scholarships," said Walker who is a senior and an officer in the program at Dawson County High School.

The organization is a state affiliate of the national Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) program.

The state initiative encompasses classroom studies, community volunteer activities that provide pre-employment training along with work skills and motivational activities.

"Not many students know about this club, so if we could just get out there and express our voice and just let other people know. That is such a great opportunity," Zavala said.

The program has been at Dawson County High School for more than 15 years and has served more than 600 students, according to Kathie Fodor who works for the Georgia Department of Labor in the local high school.

"I joined the program five years ago in October and currently have 45 students in the program," Fodor said.

She tracks the students for a full year after graduation as well.

There is a limit to the number of students in the program in any given year, but Fodor makes sure she helps as best she can. Generally they have 25 seniors and 15 juniors.

"Because I only take about 40 students, I can hold their hand and help them," Fodor said.

When the 30-year teaching veteran from Fulton County began working with the students in Dawson County she said she learned how to text so she could communicate with them on a regular basis and keep them accountable.

"How are you doing? Do you need any help? How's your job? Anything that happens, that's my follow-up," she said.

Elizabeth Morris is a junior and worked with Fodor throughout the summer to get her resume together and find a job that would suit her.

After lots of work, she landed a receptionist's position at Pet Vet in Cumming.

"I have companies call me all the time because they love who we sent there," Fodor said.

"She is wonderful," Morris said about Fodor.

DCHS graduate Haelye Lewis comes back to visit with Fodor regularly and found a position with a local daycare because she has aspirations of working with young children at the preschool level.

"It [JGG] helped me know how to interview for jobs and write a good resume," she said.

Lewis' first job through the program was one she didn't enjoy and Fodor encouraged her to give it a chance for three months and even walked her through the process of properly resigning and moving on when the time came.

"Jobs for Georgia Graduates has an exceptional record helping students throughout Georgia overcome various barriers to graduation and work," said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler in a release.

Fodor and JGG is able to help students of all kinds and she believes they all can use the help.

"What I like about our program, is we don't take stereotypes," she said. "I have all types of students, from the top 25 percent to the bottom 25 percent to those that never want to go to college and just want a full-time job to those that want a full ride to UGA [University of Georgia]."

When students first come into the program, she assesses their goals and their individual circumstances so that they can move forward with a plan for graduation and beyond.

Whatever the goal and whatever the obstacle, Fodor helps students navigate finding scholarship money and the practical aspects of getting into schools.

"Most of the money comes from what obstacles you face, what you overcame in your life. Every senior has an obstacle. I have never met one who didn't have an obstacle," she said.

"Last year, including HOPE and Pell, just the 25 JGG students got over $240,000. I am very proud of that," Fodor said.

Students meet with Fodor during regularly-scheduled club meetings to talk about things they have learned and plan projects.

"We also do fun and meaningful community projects that we present at competitions at the regional and state level," Walker said.