Q and A With JTG Graduate Ashleigh Knoll

About Graduate Ashleigh Knoll:

Ashleigh is a 2015 JTG graduate of Centennial High School in Williamson County. She is currently a senior Marketing student at Austin Peay State University. Graduating a year early in May 2018, she will have completed multiple internships at HCA, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Hospital, Lawn Doctor and more. She was JTG’s Keynote Speaker at the recent Havana Nights fundraiser. She is engaged to her high school sweetheart, and they are getting married this September with their chocolate lab, Hazel, by their side!

Q: What was high school like for you? What challenges did you experience during that time? 

A: High school for me was not the easiest of experiences. I moved to Tennessee a few months before the start of my freshman year from a small town in Wisconsin. Beginning high school and the culture shock alone was enough to be stressful, but coming into a school where everyone know one another and have been going to school together most of their lives was a challenge. I battled with a lot of anxiety throughout the four years and still deal with it now. Fitting in, finding friends, and looking and sounding a little less like an outsider was something I had to work on every day during those four years. In addition to that, my younger sister became very sick with an autoimmune disease my sophomore year which required my family to be absent a lot for her treatment. High school had it’s fun times though! I was on the volleyball team at Centennial the first three years and played travel with a lot of girls in the Williamson County/Middle Tennessee area. I excelled academically and got involved into the best class by luck – JTG!


Q: What opportunities has your involvement in JTG brought?

A: JTG brought me a lot of opportunities – both in high school and beyond. For one, JTG helped me get my first internship which I started two weeks after graduating high school! The Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) brought in three students from Centennial’s JTG program for their summer work experience, thanks to John Steele! I began as a summer IT intern, working June-July of 2015. From there, they invited me back as a departmental intern, working summers and any other school break I have. Recently, it’s turned into a full-time opportunity for my senior year, working both at corporate and from home. Not only that, but JTG has provided me with the basic interviewing, networking, resume and cover letter writing skills I needed to land other internships and positions of leadership on campus! I also got a full-ride scholarship to attend Austin Peay State University because JTG taught me to market myself and helped connect me with an admissions counselor willing to go the extra mile for me – so JTG allowed me to graduate college, debt free.


In Washington D.C. on the JTG trip

Q: What are some of your more memorable moments in the JTG program?

A: My most memorable moment in JTG was winning an essay contest which sent me to Washington D.C. just two months after beginning the class! I went with a small group from Centennial and Fairview’s JTG program, and my teacher Mrs. Odom. Here we toured the city, attended meetings, and competed in events against other JTG students. This was my first networking event I was exposed to, which later on prepared me for small-talk, elevator pitches, and interviews after graduation. It was so much fun to travel and tour our nation’s capital with other students in the program- most of whom I still keep in touch with today! Another one was when we had the competitions between Centennial and Fairview in different skill areas. I was asked to compete in the “Decision Making” portion of the event against four others. I was given a scenario and two minutes to draft my decision and my justification for it. I then walked into a room and was placed in front of a panel of four judges who were leaders in the Nashville and Franklin community to explain and defend my decision. I took home 1st place that day!


Q: How has JTG contributed to your current success?

A: JTG has contributed majorly to my success today as a graduating college student. I’ve landed internships with four different corporations because of the interviewing, networking, resume and cover letter writing experiences they taught me. I’ve been able to be elected into positions of leadership and power on campus because JTG taught me how to believe in myself and what I bring to the table. I now serve on the College of Business Dean’s Ambassador’s Program and am their senior representative for their Student Advisory Council- through those I was able to attend a networking weekend in Memphis, helped the College of Business draft their mission/value/ethics statements, and assisted in the interviews and hiring processes of the new Dean. JTG has literally helped me develop the knowledge, skills and confidence I needed to build my resume in college to help me begin my career in May!


Q: What qualities do you feel JTG helped you cultivate to get where you are today?

A: JTG helped me cultivate my interviewing, networking, resume and cover letter writing skills, and my confidence to get me where I am today. We had lectures, templates, discussions, and workshops on resume and cover letter writing. We had a mock interview with 30 or so community leaders putting us in real-life interview scenarios to test our answers under pressure. We were given countless opportunities to network and build connections: the AT&T Women and Technology Day, Washington D.C., mock interviews, community service, etc. And through constant lectures, advice, and travel with my teacher, she’s instilled confidence and belief in myself and what I’m capable of – which honestly is one of the most important things I took away from that class. I’m a better person for it, and it’s opened up more doors for me than I’ll ever realize.


Winning the “Decision Making” competition

Q: What advice would you give to current JTG seniors?

A: My advice to current JTG seniors is simple: take this class seriously. If you do the assignments, really listen to lecture, and take advantage of every opportunity that class gives you, you wont believe the success you’ll have. Everyone knows school is important – and your AP and Dual Enrollment classes are really helpful – but none of those prepare you for life after graduation than JTG. Whether you go to college, a technical school, or jump into the work force, JTG teaches you LIFE skills. I’ve seen too many of my friends in college not land internships or ace interviews because they were never taught how. Looking good on paper is one thing – it’ll get your foot in the door to college or an interview for a position. But it’s the skills you learn in JTG that are going to lock down the success. So take this seriously, listen to your professor, and volunteer for every extra opportunity you can through JTG. You may not see the benefits right away, but they’re there, and they’re invaluable.


Q: If you had one message for school district superintendents and principals who were considering implementing JTG in their schools, what would it be?

A: “DO IT.” I hate hearing principals and superintendents preach about how they need to prepare their students for success after graduation. What they don’t realize is this: success after graduation takes more than just Algebra and English… JTG has given me invaluable skills that the basic academic classes don’t teach. Everyone expects you to know in college or the workforce how to write a resume or cover letter, how to interview, how to sell yourself, etc. But who teaches us those skills? There isn’t a college class for it; we’re just expected to know. So if they are serious about setting us up for success and wanting to see their students succeed and land those jobs, ace those scholarship interviews, and build their professional networks, JTG is a must.

By |2017-11-22T06:16:56+00:00November 22nd, 2017|Stories of Hope|0 Comments

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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