Stories of Hope: Lionel Colas

Meet Lionel Colas, an 18-year old senior at Stratford STEM Magnet High School. Originally from Miami, he has lived in Nashville a little over a year. Lionel has already secured a part-time position at Comcast in their IT department at $20 an hour through Jobs for Tennessee Graduates his senior year, and he has a full-time position waiting for him upon graduation at $30,000 a year with a full benefits package. Lionel credits JTG with what he considers a life-changing – and life-saving – opportunity.

“JTG has offered more of a stepping stone in the business world, and it has helped me get more prepared for what is outside of my school, “he says. “Without JTG, I can say I wouldn’t have my job with Comcast. I’ve been able to get hired at Comcast and still have a second job on the side. As far as after high school, I will be furthering my education as well by going to college and eventually on to medical school.”

Lionel says that “communication is the foundation” of every curriculum unit his JTG Specialist, Daniel Smith, teaches. He says that the first quarter is heavily focused on communication skills, such as posture, eye contact, strategies such as pan, track, and zoom, and building interpersonal skills needed to stand out in interviews and with colleagues. The second quarter is focused more on the business aspect of the job force, or as he puts it, “Now that we’re here, it’s how we stay here.”

He says their classes focus on building business-savvy skills and understanding why “friendliness is key” to job stability and work relations. The third quarter is more a test-run of the skills they have learned up to that point through mock interviews and guest speakers from the local business community, He connects those skills to a newfound sense of confidence he has in his own abilities as well as his role in his own destiny:

“JTG has shown me how to take ownership, pride, and responsibility because if you don’t do your work, and you’re not prepared, then it all falls on you. That’s hard to hear, but that’s how it is in the real world. You can’t rely on anyone but yourself, and JTG has shown me that responsibility.”

Lionel’s only suggestion for improvements to the JTG program is that it would expand as an offering to all high school students. “It’s just a missed opportunity and missed potential,” he says. “A lot of students here come from different backgrounds, a lot who live in poverty and in government housing. Getting a job that makes $30,000 a year right after high school could be literally life-changing. A lot of kids who aren’t in this program don’t have that opportunity like we do. I guarantee you that the student population in government housing would fall substantially.”

He spoke of a classmate who was recently gunned down nearby in her housing project and lamented:

“Had she been a part of the JTG program like we are, it could have literally saved her life.”

He wants to see all students have not only the access to the skills they have learned but also have the hope and confidence that he and his peers have been given through those skills.

His senior quote, self-penned, was even inspired by the program: “I’m now like water. What I mean is that water takes the shape of whatever vessel it is in. It is shapeless until instructed to take shape.” He continued, “JTG has taught me to expand my social boundaries and become like water, flexible and moldable.”

By |2017-06-05T18:38:35+00:00June 5th, 2017|Academics, College, Fundraising|Comments Off on Stories of Hope: Lionel Colas

About the Author:

Call it John Dwyer 2.0 After 29 years as a TV Broadcaster, Dwyer is President & CEO of Jobs for Tennessee Graduates (JTG). JTG, an affiliate of Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG), is a non-profit organization dedicated to stewarding at-risk high school students toward graduation with follow through toward post-secondary education and/or job opportunities. Associated with JAG since 1981, JTG consistently obtains a graduation rate above 90-percent with a full-time job rate at nearly 70-percent. The most vulnerable, socioeconomically challenged young men and women, graduate with self-esteem with the realization and skill set to achieve success after high school. Does it get much better than that? Dwyer, is a resident of the Nashville area since 1996. He was sports director and/or a news anchor at TV stations in Nashville, Jacksonville, Florida; Ft. Myers, FL and his hometown of South Bend, Indiana. He is a 10-time Mid-South Region Emmy Award winner, along with winning numerous other awards. He is also a former Heisman Trophy voter. John is a 1985 graduate of Butler University, where he majored in Radio/TV while minoring in journalism. An avid running (or “plodder” as he likes to call himself), Dwyer runs in Nashville’s annual marathon. (Current tally: 7 Full, 10 Half). He accomplished a goal, once thought out of reach, be qualifying and running in the Boston Marathon in 2009. Married to Lynley, Dwyer resides in East Nashville with his wife and dog Lola. Dwyer served on the Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee board from 2006-2012, and was board chairman for three years.

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COVID-19 Update

JAG and JTG Statement in Response to COVID-19

 As we are all feeling, COVID-19 has shifted how the world operates in a way that is unprecedented for our generation, and Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) and Jobs for Tennessee Graduates (JTG), one of 39 JAG state affiliates, are no exception. The impact of the coronavirus and the immediate danger it presents has closed our education system, directly affecting students and their families. This is especially detrimental to JTG students, who often look to their JTG Specialists and classmates for steadiness and security in their lives.

We also recognize that our students and their families are disproportionately affected by the closure of restaurants, stores, bars, and other service-industry places of work. These jobs often provide the entry-level opportunities our students need to enter the workforce. A difficult environment is likely to continue for some time, so we are in the process to reposition our training and support to make the best case for our JTG students to be considered for employment.

At a time when we must social distance ourselves to protect each other, the thousands of JTG students we serve need us more than ever.  We are responding to and encouraged by the requests from many JTG Specialists to access online learning modules and platforms provided by JAG educational partners like the Skills to Succeed Academy, EverFi, and Tallo. We are excited to see the interest in the JAG Genius and the use of virtual connectivity and the online sense of community – something we all need in these times.

Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) and Jobs for Tennessee Graduates (JTG) recognize we need to modify the way we provide support and deliver competencies to our students during this time of uncertainty. In response to the way business and education are adapting (in real time) to COVID-19,  JAG National is establishing new protocols and processes to ensure full, virtual engagement with our young people to ensure they have the competencies they need to meet the very competitive job market ahead. That is why JAG is providing the immediate recommendations below that are of highest priority, which impact the day-to-day lives of our students and Specialists. Like our world right now, please know that these are in real-time and subject to change.


Moving forward, we will have ongoing recommendations that will be built into new practices that will serve as both short- and long-term solutions to continue JAG’s data-driven model. This will help us remain accountable to our students, our partners, funders, and each other.