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June 17. 2014 8:22PM

NH-JAG program shows it's making people's lives better


NH-JAG Board Chairman Bobby Stephen and Executive Director Katherine Dichard greet supporters at Monday night's benefit at Pasquale's Ristorante in Candia. (Ryan O'Connor)

CANDIA — Brittany Paquette was 17 when she reached out to NH Jobs for America’s Graduates (NH-JAG), a local nonprofit organization that aims to prevent high school dropouts and create positive change in the lives of teenagers and young adults through education, leadership training and career-skill building programs.

“I had severe anxiety. I couldn’t even talk to people,” said Paquette. “(NH-JAG) helped me to talk and say what I needed to say ... I’m 21 now and I’m currently a full-time nanny, and they helped me go to (Manchester Community College) ... . It’s hard not talking to anyone, so they helped give me the confidence to make friends and get through high school.”

Like Paquette, Nathan Nalezinski was 17 when he first embraced the assistance of NH–JAG.

“Before I was even in the JAG program, they actually got me a summer job in an early college success program, so I participated in that, and I also worked a summer job at the YMCA, and then senior year, they ended up offering me an internship at BAE Systems, and I ended up getting hired there, and I’ve worked permanently there ever since,” said Nalezinski, 22. He is assembling electronic circuitry for the military through BAE, which is paying for his degree program at Daniel Webster College.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I graduated high school, and the program really helped me find something I was interested in,” he added. “You know, I like to take things apart, and now I’m going to school for mechanical engineering, all because of the (NH-JAG) program.”

Monday night, both Paquette and Nalezinski were in attendance at Pasquale’s Ristorante for NH-JAGS’s fourth-annual wine tasting, dinner and auction benefit.

Tickets were $100 a person or $150 for a couple, and all proceeds went to the program. Among the auction items were spa packages, fine wines, Boston Red Sox tickets and a signed David Ortiz jersey.

Bobby Stephen, board chairman for NH-JAG, said the organization takes students who have either dropped out or are contemplating dropping out and teaches them the importance of education.

Stephen said getting funding for the problem is problematic, but some businesses have stepped forward.

“But it’s important we get more funding because if we don’t educate the future workforce of this state, we have a problem,” said Stephen, “and by investing, we keep these kids on the right road … and taxpayers will end up paying less in the long run if we educate them, so they go out in the workforce… .”

A major component of the program is instilling leadership skills so students can quickly move up in the world, said NH-JAG Executive Director Katherine Dichard.

“What we try to do for students is prepare them, not just for their education and pursuing post-secondary education, which we hope they do, but more so, we’re preparing them for the workforce beyond that,” she said.

For more information, go to nh-jag.org.

roconnor@newstote.com


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