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BHS JAG students work hard, learn new skills

August 10, 2011
BERLIN — Nearly a dozen and a half Berlin High School students in the Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) program completed four four-day weeks on Thursday in a summer youth work experience.

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, nine students moved rocks and large boulders to create rock steps and rock waterbars near the trailhead of a new path off the BHS lower parking lot that connects to an existing one to the top of Mt. Jasper. The students, who wore gloves and work boots, used shovels, pry bars, and Pulaski tools to build these erosion control measures.

Mt. Jasper was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 because both early and later native peoples mined stone there to make tools, including arrowheads.

The Appalachian Mountain Club's Camp Dodge volunteer trails program provided the leadership and tools for the project. "It's part of a larger Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund grant, designed to enhance community-based conservation in Berlin," explained Sally Manikian of Shelburne, an AMC backcountry resource conservation manager. "All the students are good workers, and all of them have had some connection to Mt. Jasper. Many of them have previous experience being outside in the woods."

"I like working on the rock waterbars," BHS junior Joshua Haley told this reporter on Aug. 2. BHS junior Sarah Coy noted that one of BHS science teachers uses the bogs near the school for field trips and she now expects that, with a good path in place, more teachers will use BHS' back yard for hands-on learning. BHS senior Hailey Gabick said that she is now thinking that she would like to pursue a career that allows her to work in the woods.

All the students said that were appalled and disgusted when they found debris, litter, and beer cans on the mountainside, left behind by those they described as "partying juveniles."

The students praised the efforts of their BHS JAG Youth Specialist-Teacher Lisa King of Gorham.

King has an open-door policy so that they can get help with problems in her office, they explained. She also provides information on potential careers and what kind of post-secondary schooling that they will need to succeed, including the availability of scholarships and incentive programs in the military.

King said in a one-on-one interview that this is the first year that she had "outsourced" JAG students' summer work program. Previously, JAG students had worked on maintenance projects and landscaping at the high school and other public school buildings.

This summer the bulk of the students worked on the AMC trail-building project, and five worked for the City's Parks and Recreation Department. Three of these worked with youngsters enrolled in the summer rec program under the supervision of counselors, and two worked on Parks maintenance projects in different parts of the City. King reported that their supervisors were very pleased with both their work ethic and enthusiasm.

King explained that the JAG program is a year-round commitment to promising students. She said that she works closely with Brynna Kelley in the School-to-Career program.

"Through three distinct Programs, NH-JAG (www.nh-jag.org) facilitates learning, skill development and community involvement, empowering young adults to identify their dreams and to define and follow a productive path within which to achieve these dreams," explained NH-JAG president Priscilla Parisien of Manchester in an e-mail exchange. NH-JAG teaches young adults both academic and workplace competencies, she emphasized.

NH-JAG has been part of the national JAG organization since 1987 under the New Hampshire Job Training Council and was incorporated as a non-profit in 2000 with over 25 statewide programs funded under the Workforce Investment Act. Today's programs are funded through the Department of Resources and Economic Development, Governor's Commission on Dropout Prevention under the oversight of the state Department of Education (NHDOE), local school systems, and through various foundations and donations.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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