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Nonprofit goes deep in helping students in need (opinion)


Submitted by René Cantú, Executive Director of Jobs for America’s Graduates in Nevada

René Cantú

Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) students are among the most vulnerable population across 1,400 communities in 39 states. These 75,000 students will be hit the hardest – and for the longest – by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Nevada, Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates (J4NG) provides services to over 3,600 of Nevada’s most vulnerable students through inspiration, support and mentorship to help them succeed. These students reside in 14 counties in Nevada and represent the highest concentration of individuals in rural communities of any nonprofit in Nevada. This is critical, especially now, because Nevada’s most vulnerable youth do not reside in one location and need assistance where they live.

Since the pandemic reached critical status, nonprofits and schools have focused on meeting immediate basic needs like food, cash assistance and technological access for students.

J4NG is on the frontlines helping students too.

Over the last six weeks, since the crisis exploded, J4NG has logged 15,000 hours of contact with its students. Since students need more than one-time triage assistance, J4NG has provided an average of 4.1 hours of contact per student during this time. J4NG Specialists continue to do wellness checks with students and have answered hundreds of calls for assistance with groceries, technology, housing and transportation needs during COVID-19 shutdowns. 

Since “stay at home” orders began, J4NG staff sprang into action across Nevada in communities like Tonopah, Elko, Fernley and West Wendover. In Reno, Regional Director Jim Dahl received a donation of 10 computers from Q&D Construction. Jim and his counterpart, Coordinator Chyanne Corley,  delivered these refurbished computers to students who did not have access to technology. 

At Reed High School in Sparks, J4NG Specialist Terry Boyden immediately met senior Zoey Chandler at the high school and delivered a computer. Terry gave the computer that was provided to Zoey, a J4NG student and Terry’s Promise Scholarship mentee.

“Zoey was ecstatic!” said Terry. “Her exact words in a text, after she got home with the computer, were, ‘THANK YOU SO SO MUCH!! We appreciate the help. You’re the absolute best!’”

In addition to basic needs, students have also requested and received services for mental, physical and health needs. Students continue to seek support with employment and post-secondary preparation assistance.

María Lupita Romero, J4NG Specialist at Valley High School in Las Vegas, reported this week that all her J4NG students who applied for Public Education Foundation scholarships this spring received scholarships.

Ms. Romero writes, “Every student for whom I wrote a letter of recommendation to the Public Education Foundation (PEF) received a scholarship. They received their award letters yesterday and contacted me right away to inform me of the wonderful news. I am very happy that their hard work and dedication paid off.”

Reed High School

In total, her five seniors received almost $25,000 in PEF scholarships combined.

What stories like those of Zoey at Reed and the five seniors at Valley High School illustrate is that even as the present looks uncertain, the need for students of promise to continue planning and preparing for the future is vital to Nevada’s future and the future of every vulnerable student in Nevada. Ms. Romero’s work exemplifies how J4NG not only provides immediate needs at present, but continues to plan and prepare students for a brighter future.

In total, Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates provides an average of 120 hours of contact to each student each year, stays with them through high school, and continues supporting and guiding students for 12-24 months after graduation. J4NG does so in fulfillment of its promise to its students and to Nevada: to inspire, support and mentor students to create a powerful and positive future for themselves and for Nevada. As our vision states, when our students reach their potential, we Nevadans will reach ours.

Changing the lives of youth of promise and limited opportunity, and helping them build prosperity through education, workplace skills development and pathways to key industries best describes René Cantú’s personal passion and professional commitment. In his work with Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates (J4NG), he believes in changing the world for the better one student at a time. With programs in 14 Nevada counties (out of 17), Cantú builds partnerships with K-12, post-secondary education and employers. As an innovator and creator of successful organizations, he believes that institutions are means to that end, and must continually change and open themselves to partnerships to improve student outcomes. As a leader, Cantú facilitates the success of team members and listens to their counsel. J4NG teams move forward together with a laser focus first and foremost on those they serve–students of promise in Nevada.

Submitted opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article or letter to the editor here.

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J4NG students speak with local officials at Virtual Day with Nevada Legislature (sponsored)

SPONSORED: Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates (J4NG) hosted a virtual J4NG Day with the Nevada Legislature to promote civic engagement and leadership development.