Stories of Hope: Emma Warzynski

Stories of Hope: Meet Emma Warzynski, a 2017 graduate from Stratford STEM Magnet High School. Originally from Canada, Emma faced a great deal of struggles assimilating into the American classroom, and she graduated as Salutatorian of her class. She  began Austin Peay University this fall to pursue a career in occupational therapy.

“I have overcome a lot of barriers to get here,” she says, “I’m originally from Canada, so I didn’t know anything about what they were teaching at all. I didn’t even know how to spell my last name in the first grade. I didn’t know how to read until second grade.”

A naturally shy person who had a lot of social insecurities, she credits her experience in JTG with giving her the social skills necessary for not only her future career but a major public speaking engagement – her Salutatorian speech: “As a person who has stage fright, it has really helped me. I actually have to give a speech at graduation, so I would be a nervous wreck.”

She says the most important part of the JTG program is the real-world applicability that the classroom her JTG Specialist, Daniel Smith, provides, “JTG to me gave me leadership skills by giving me chances at leadership positions in the classrooms. Working on leadership skills, it shows you how to work in a team better. We go through how an interview would work, how a job would work, and what you need to do, and what it really requires. They don’t normally teach you that in high school, so kids go out into the workforce and have no clue. They don’t know, “Oh, I have to go here every day, I have to dress nice, I have to know how to talk to people. JTG gives you that step to go further – and how to do it properly.”

Her favorite part of the year was learning from the guest speakers they’ve had, such as executives from Comcast and Sheraton Hotels and felt that they offered valuable information on securing a position and advancing in the corporate world.

She notes that many high school graduates who are not college-bound find themselves in the workforce with their only option being low-paying fast-food jobs, which she is quick to say, “There’s nothing wrong with that. But unless you have long-term goals of working over years into the management sector of that company, you’re not really going to go anywhere. It doesn’t give you the chance to move up to find stability.” She believes that JTG’s program opens students’ horizons by giving them the skills and confidence needed to secure high-paying jobs with large-scale corporations right out of high school, something that she believes many of her peers do not know or recognize.

She says, “JTG helps students learn skills they need for their lives and to get out of whatever environment they are in, especially if it is not the greatest. You’re given an opportunity that high school classrooms don’t normally teach you.”

Seeing her own life and the lives of her fellow JTG graduates change over the course of a year makes her believe that if it were offered to all her peers, they also would recognize their own potential to strive for jobs that would enable them to move up in their careers.


***Editing note: In the original post, it stated that Emma did not learn to read until middle school. It has been changed to accurately say second grade.


By |2017-10-16T17:29:45+00:00October 5th, 2017|Stories of Hope, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Stories of Hope: Emma Warzynski

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.