HARTFORD — Students in Hartford say they’re a little more prepared for what comes after high school thanks to the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) program.

JMG serves 127 students in two programs at Hartford High School and Hartford Alternative Education, and an additional 35 Hartford seniors from the Class of 2017 through 12 months of follow-up programming. The program aims to make sure Hartford’s youth graduate and secure employment or post-secondary education opportunities. 

“JMG is very beneficial to students like in a small school that really don’t get to experience outside of a small town. It’s such a blessing we get to do this,” said Randy Ramirez, one of the class presidents for the JMG program at Hartford High School.

He said he’s been able to travel to the Michigan capitol, meet state legislators and learn about careers, education opportunities and job-related software skills. 

“I never imagined going to the capital – I’m from Texas, all I know is Hartford – and meeting (state Rep. Beth) Griffin and other legislators was just amazing,” Ramirez said.

He said the program has opened his eyes to the future. 

Mariah Chancellor, the other class president for the JMG program at Hartford, said the teachers of the program, Jocelyn Braddock and Valerie Owen, check all the student’s classroom grades to make sure they’re excelling.

“They really push us to do good in school, and even if we don’t want to go to college after school, they help us find our path and careers right after high school,” she said. 

Chancellor said in a financial literacy unit the students learned about taxes, credit scores, student loans, interest rates, credit cards and banking.

Ramirez said they were involved in community service programs through the year and even learned about resumes and interviews. 

“We worked on ways to continue to be successful in employment as we talked about what employers want in employees,” Ramirez said. “We listened to guest speakers talk about careers and opportunities and the education for our future.”

One of the last guest speakers of the year was Attorney General Bill Schuette. 

He told the students Wednesday to have big dreams, bold hopes and boundless aspirations.

“I’m an optimist. There’s nothing we can’t do. There’s no obstacle you can’t surmount if you have the right attitude and the skills and tools to participate and compete in this great land we know as America,” said Schuette, a Republican candidate for governor. 

He talked about how important programs like JMG and others are for giving students those tools.

“I’m of the attitude, everyone here needs to have choices – you and your families. So some of you may want to go to college. You better be college ready. Some of you will want to go into the workforce. You better be workforce ready,” said Schuette, whose Wednesday campaign schedule included stops in Dowagiac, Niles and St. Joseph.

He ended the Hartford visit with some advice he gives to his own kids. He told the students to be indispensable to future employers, always be honest and communicate clearly and help others to succeed.

Of the JMG students from the Hartford High School Class of 2016, 97 percent graduated and 86 percent went onto either employment or post-secondary education. 

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman