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FLORENCE — In one room at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center, students were focused on creative problem-solving.

Decision-making was the theme students centered on in another room.

In yet another, students participated in mock employment interviews, while another location saw teams from different high schools compete in a quiz bowl.

Math skills, public speaking and employment skills were themes of contests and workshops, as students traveled from one session to another during the Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates North District Career Development Conference.

“It’s pretty fun,” Central High School JAG team member K’Terrius Jones said. “Stressful at times, but fun.”

The JAG program is a statewide initiative that introduces students to careers and skills they need to pursue their higher education and work goals.

JAG identifies 33 barriers that could stand in the way of a student’s success, ranging from being environmentally at risk to physical challenges. Students with at least five barriers are eligible for the program, administrator Craig Collins said.

“We have been in Alabama 24 years and are boasting a 99% graduation rate,” Collins said. “This program has saved countless lives in Alabama.”

He said this is the 10th year Florence has hosted the district conference. Winners will compete in Birmingham at the state conference in April.

A total of 14 schools were in the North District competition, including Central, Wilson, Lauderdale County, Phil Campbell and Phillips high schools.

For Jones, the program has provided opportunities to work on improving himself. In addition, it helped him land a job at Southwire in Florence, which he starts at the end of April.

Central High School JAG Specialist Mike Curtis said the program teaches and mentors students.

“We try to focus them on what they need to be doing when they graduate,” Curtis said. “Probably 90% of ours will go into vocation versus going to college.

“We help them with resumes, applications, how to do a job interview, and how to dress for it. The students even have their own newscast.”