MANSFIELD – GOAL Digital Academy ensures each student graduates with top skills and attributes by offering a blended model of learning where students receive face-to-face adult support to help them learn, set goals and prepare for their futures. Instead of simply moving to online platforms, students have options that take them outside the classroom and into the real world. Earlier this month, GOAL students in the JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) program had an opportunity to participate in the National Student Leadership Academy (NSLA) in Washington D.C. This is the 3rd time GOAL has sent students to this conference.
From November 30th to December 4th, GOAL sent 5 students this year, as well as chaperones Tish Jenkins, JAG Executive director for North Central District and GOAL Superintendent; Keith Willis, GOAL JAG Teacher; Gregg Snnoffer, GOAL American and World History Teacher and former JAG teacher at the Delaware Area Career Center; and Stephanie Bowers, GOAL Intervention Specialist. They were joined by 6 other students (2 students from Northmor, 2 from Mt Gilead, and 2 from Delaware Hayes) to represent the North Central District of the Ohio Career Association.
To be selected for the conference, students were required to complete an application process, have above average grades, and get a recommendation from a GOAL staff member that works at the student’s local lab as well as their GOAL mentor.The students selected are the officers of their local chapter of the National Career Association (NCA). The NCA is the organization linked to JAG that provides students with unique experiences through experiential learning, real-world applicability, and networking. JAG hosts approximately 450 students each year.
Keith Willis said the primary focus of the conference was to help students develop their leadership skills through workshops, team building activities, and the opportunity to network with not only the other students from around the country but also with corporate and community leaders, lawmakers, and the leaders of the JAG National organization. “The conference gave students the skills they needed to come back to their home school and take on a leadership role in the GOAL chapter of the Career Association. For many of our students, it was the first time they have ever left their hometown, the first time on a plane, and the first time away from their parents.”
The students were tested right away as they ran into some traveling snags. Stephanie Bowers said their original flight was canceled after already going through security. “Thankfully the Southwest crew knew how to help!” Bowers explained. “We were able to find a flight to Baltimore and then we had a shuttle ride to Washington D.C.! The students were all so calm during all of this and we got through it and made it safely to D.C.”
When they got to D.C. they not only attended leadership sessions and workshops, students had the opportunity to explore the nation’s capital and participate in social events hosted by JAG. Students attended a formal awards luncheon, participated in a networking social, and attended the Stars and Stripes dance. Bowers said another highlight was a bus tour around the city. “We were able to go to Arlington Cemetery where we saw the changing of the guard and the wreath laying ceremony. We then went to the WWII Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War memorial, and the Vietnam War memorial. The students also had the opportunity to walk to the Washington Monument and explore different museums, including the Holocuast Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.”
Several students participated in a “live lesson” with Mr. Snouffer and Mr. Willis to share their experiences in Washington D.C., hosted directly from the steps of the Capitol Building, with other students back in Ohio in Mr. Snouffer’s American History class. This was provided via GOAL online, an innovative way for students to access exciting learning opportunities without leaving home (or the Learning Lab).
Throughout the trip, the growth and excitement in the students became visible. “On the first day, the students hardly talk to each other, they don’t ask many questions, and they are reluctant to participate in activities,” said Willis. “By the last day, they have become good friends with not only students in our group but also students from other states.
They ask questions about what is going on around them, they are much more engaged, and they are truly interested in becoming leaders.”
Willis said students had a tremendous time. “When we returned, I was asked by a couple about attending again even though they were graduating. We are so proud of all of these students and glad that we all had this opportunity!”
GOAL Digital Academy serves 12 counties in Central Ohio with its 7 Learning Labs and celebrates students’ diverse learning styles, interests and talents by going beyond academics and providing students with well-rounded opportunities to meet new people and engage in their passions. GOAL offers regular family education and networking opportunities and continually works to remove family or community barriers that impact student success.