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.”