Pioneer Academy students take steps toward careers

Carson City Mayor Lori Bagwell talks to a group of Pioneer Academy students during a J4NG ceremony Oct. 26 at the school. From left, Alex Ortiz, Jazlynn Johnson and Tristan Pulsipher.

Carson City Mayor Lori Bagwell talks to a group of Pioneer Academy students during a J4NG ceremony Oct. 26 at the school. From left, Alex Ortiz, Jazlynn Johnson and Tristan Pulsipher.
Photo by Scott Neuffer.

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Carson City Mayor Lori Bagwell joined Nevada Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill (R-District 40) at Pioneer Academy off East Corbett Street on Thursday to speak to students of the J4NG program.

“I’m so excited today to learn that you’re all taking a step already in your futures,” Bagwell told students. “Because you’ve already done something. I heard the pledge today. So what have you promised to do? Try, right? You’ve promised that already. You have a great president that’s going to help you along the way and some good teachers, so I’m already so very proud of each and every one of you. Lean on them, learn from them and don’t be afraid to succeed.”

Of 170 high school students at the academy, 21 pledged themselves to the Pioneer J4NG Career Association on Thursday, installing officers for the year and lighting symbolic candles. Affiliated with the national program and started by former Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2013, J4NG, or Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates, is a nonprofit that offers support and job training for underserved youth.

According to the organization’s website, 3,146 students are currently in the program across the state. The program has achieved a high school graduation rate of just under 98 percent and has served nearly 20,000 students since its inception.

“These candles you light this afternoon represent your membership in the Pioneer High School Career Association and your hopes for future success,” said Laura Gardner, J4NG specialist at Pioneer.

Brooklynn Case, 17, was named president of the association. Case told the Appeal this month marks a year of being cancer-free after being diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in 2022. Case has learned from the experience and wants to be a pediatric oncologist.

“It makes me feel accomplished,” Case said of being president. “It makes me feel like I can help the students I know … If I’m able to do it, so are they able to do it.”

Tristan Pulsipher, 17, plans to be a combat medic in the U.S. Army before becoming an English teacher. He said J4NG has helped him plan daily, weekly and monthly.

“I’m definitely way more organized,” he said.

Jazlynn Johnson, 18, is hoping to become a diesel mechanic.

“(J4NG) connects me to programs, what trade schools I want to go to, and gives me options,” Johnson said.

Alex Ortiz, 17, dreams of becoming certified as an underwater welder.

“This gives me more options if I really want to complete this path, and I do,” he said.

O’Neill told students over 80 percent of those in J4NG experience “full-time positive outcomes.”

“Meaning they find full-time employment, higher education, career training, military service or a combination thereof,” he said.

O’Neill said there is no one correct path to follow. He told students they are the future of the state and must commit to their respective goals.

“That’s what you have to do. You make the choices. You make the commitment. You follow through. And the future will be yours,” he said.

Stacy Skubinna, J4NG program manager, told the Appeal the organization connects students to educational and career opportunities. For example, a program at Truckee Meadows Community College prepares students for work at local employer Tesla.

“If the schools want us, then we’ll be there,” she said.

She added, “We’re trying to get involved as much as possible.”

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