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A New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation program that is helping high school students develop college and workplace skills was honored during an event in Las Vegas on July 12. The program, 'Jobs for New Jersey's Graduates,' was lauded for the effective work it is doing in placing high school graduates, once considered at-risk for dropping out of school, in full-time jobs, the military or post-secondary education.

'Jobs for New Jersey Graduates' ranked first, among similar programs in 33 states, for the percentage of participating 2016 graduates that are presently working full-time (100 percent of those working are working full-time). The program ranked second nationally for the percentage of program participants who graduated high school in 2016 that are either in jobs, the military or post-secondary education (60 percent).

Corporate Support

Jobs for New Jersey's Graduates, a state affiliate of the Jobs for America's Graduates initiative, focuses on students that are at-risk of dropping out of high school and is funded solely through donations by private and corporate partners like Walmart Foundation, Prudential Foundation, Investors Bank, Victoria Foundation, AT&T, PSEG and Wells Fargo.

"What makes this recognition special is we are the only 'Jobs for America's Graduates' program in 33 states that receives no governmental financial support, a reality that we are trying to change," said Donna Custard, president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation. "In addition, the vast majority of programs across the country are in rural areas while the 'Jobs for New Jersey's Graduates' program is exclusively in urban areas that are vulnerable to high dropout rates."

The New Jersey program was offered in 10 schools in Newark, Camden, East Orange, Carteret, New Brunswick and Vineland in the past school year. More than 320 students participated, up from 134 the previous year. Participants are typically from low-income families and struggle with academic, environmental, physical, psychological or work-related barriers to success, which makes them especially susceptible to dropping out.

How the Program Works

In the 'Jobs for New Jersey's Graduates' program, students chosen by teachers and guidance counselors study leadership and employment skills, and receive academic support, access to inspiring guest speakers, tours of local businesses, and mentoring as they consider pursuing college or a career. Students take the program as an elective course and have the opportunity to attend statewide and national conferences where they befriend and compete with program participants from all over the nation. Graduates of the program continue to receive support for 12 months after high school graduation to help them as they transition into college or a career.

The New Jersey program was also singled out in Las Vegas for concentrating on students who struggle academically. In this past school year, nearly half of the seniors accepted into the New Jersey program were from their schools' lowest academic quartile; and the New Jersey seniors accepted into the program had the lowest average GPA (2.06) among 'Jobs for America's Graduates' nationwide, illustrating the high level of need for the program.

New Jersey Teachers Honored

Teachers Rebecca Baker of Carteret High School and Elizabeth Clark of Weequahic High School in Newark were named 2017 outstanding specialists - teachers in the 'Jobs for New Jersey's Graduates' program. Clark also won a “High Performer” award.

Other teachers honored were:

  • Valaida Doyle-Smith, of Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, ranked first in the country for having more than 70 percent of her senior students from the school's bottom academic quartile.
  • Wanda Wormley, of West Side Campus in Newark, ranked third in the country for having 96 percent of her seniors and underclassmen from the school's bottom academic quartile
  • Keith Benson, of Camden High School, worked with seniors who entered the program with the lowest average GPA at 1.91.

The awards were presented at the Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) National Training Seminar in Las Vegas July 12 and 13.

To support the 'Jobs for New Jersey Graduates' program, contact Donna Custard at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Honors to 'Jobs for New Jersey Graduates'

First Place - 2016 Program Graduates in Full-time Jobs: Among the graduating students who participated in Jobs for New Jersey's Graduates who are employed, 100 percent are in full-time jobs

Second Place - 2016 Program Graduates in Full-time Placement: New Jersey had the second highest rate of full-time placement into jobs, the military or post-secondary education with 60 percent of all graduating students who participated in the program.