Four Smith-Cotton High seniors created a project to help their peers and were rewarded with national recognition.

Makaio Cook, Isabel Juan, Draigon Stephens and Maekayla Walters earned
first place in the Project-Based Learning category at the Jobs for America’s
Graduates (JAG) National Career Development Conference, held May 5-7 in
Dallas. JAG is a nationwide program that prepares students for success
during and after high school by focusing on employability skills and
addressing community issues and solutions.

Smith-Cotton JAG Advisor Amanda Harvey said the Project-Based Learning
Event is a presentation on a project, product or event developed at the
students’ school or in their community during the current school year. The
S-C group chose to focus on increasing mental health awareness.

“Our project included a presentation to eighth graders on mental health
awareness and how to handle the stress of high school,” Stephens said. “We
also planned activities to help our JAG classmates learn how to handle stress
and develop healthy habits, including a presentation from Burrell Behavioral
Health, visits to Soul Full Yoga studio and Kwench Juice Cafe, and a trip to
the park."

The JAG group also decorated the display windows outside the S-C High
Student Commons with their “Your Mind Matters” logo and hung flyers with
the logo and positive affirmations so the entire high school was aware of
their project.

Harvey noted that JAG has a requirement for members to complete at least
10 service hours each year, “because there is much that can be learned
from serving others."

The group was overwhelmed when they learned they had won.

“I was ecstatic and couldn't believe they called our names for first place,”
Walters said. “We were all so excited that our hard work paid off and we
had a big group hug afterwards."

Cook said the trip to Dallas for the national event was “a great way to end
our senior year. JAG is like a family so it was fun taking a trip together."

For Juan, involvement in JAG has presented opportunities that she
otherwise wouldn't have known about.

“Mrs. Harvey took us to job fairs and college visits, helped us fill out job applications and scholarship applications,” Juan said. “Being in JAG provided me with my first opportunity to attend a competition. The fact that we placed second at state and first at Nationals is surprising and something I'm proud of.”

In the photo: Smith-Cotton High School seniors, from left, Makaio Cook, Isabel Juan,
Draigon Stephens and Maekayla Walters display their first-place honors at
the JAG National Career Development Conference in Dallas. The team won
the Project-Based Learning competition