Highland Home School JAG attends leadership conference in Washington D.C.

Published 5:34 pm Friday, January 6, 2023

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

Dayana Acosta and Amber Majors, Highland Home School students traveled to Washington  as two of only five students selected to represent Alabama at the Jobs for America’s Graduates National Student Leadership Academy (NLSA) held Dec. 1 to Dec. 3.

The NSLA is a leadership experience for JAG state officers and local chapter leaders that provides unique experiences through experiential learning, real-world applicability and networking.

In addition to receiving leadership training, the students explored the nation’s capital, visited with members of Congress on Capitol Hill, participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, and saw the sights during the Twilight Monument Tour. 

Amber Majors, JAG State President and junior at HHS, said that the trip to Washington and her JAG experience as a whole has been life-changing. 

“My favorite part of the trip was seeing the Capitol in person,” Majors said. “With things being so politically charged, and politics having so much relevance in my life, seeing the Capitol made all of that feel more real and concrete. Visiting the Smithsonian was very emotional and a little overwhelming seeing America’s history spread out in front of me and how everything came to be. 

“The trip truly changed my life along with my entire experience with JAG and what Mrs. Leslie has done. She took the program at Highland Home and ran with it. I now have a career path I am working toward, I’ve learned how to continually strive for success, and I am a national champion. The JAG program that Mrs. Leslie built has impacted my life more than any other teachers could really understand.”

Dayana Acosta, HHS JAG Chapter President and senior at HHS, that seeing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was one of the most meaningful parts of the trip.

“Standing where Martin Luther King Jr stood when he delivered his ‘ Have a Dream’ speech and walking where he led the March on Washington was very impactful,” Acosta said. “The gigantic role he played in the lives of so many people, what he did for all of America, and how he dreamed big really got to me when we saw the memorial.”

Acosta said she owes JAG for many things, including finding her voice. She said that the trip to D.C. and hearing speeches from those that found success thanks to JAG made her even more determined. 

“JAG has helped me develop many skills. I can communicate better with people, and I know that will help me in my career and all parts of life. I have so many life skills now that I would not have developed without JAG. Listening to past JAG members that found success and hearing the JAG National President speak about how success doesn’t stop at a certain age was very encouraging. Everything about the trip, and my time in JAG, and being part of a national champion team has really made me want to work hard and be successful.”

Gary Coleman, HHS principal, and Leslie Flowers, JAG specialist at HHS, accompanied the students on the trip.

“This was truly an amazing, once in a lifetime experience with only five students from Alabama selected to attend,” Flowers said. “No stone was unturned when it came to seeing and being able to appreciate the history of Washington DC. The students not only got to tour the city and all it has to offer, but they made lifelong connections with peers from all over the country that are also heavily involved in JAG. They learned how to be effective leaders in the HHS JAG Chapter. All the things they’ve been taught, but only heard about came to reality. I am very blessed to have experienced this with them and to have witnessed the excitement from a student’s perspective.”

The mission of The National Student Leadership Academy is to grow confidence and responsibility within each student. Flowers said that the academy certainly met that goal.

“With so much going on in the world today, it’s crucial we invest in our youth by stressing the idea that change begins with them,” Flowers said. “They are our future and it’s terribly important to me that Crenshaw County students understand their responsibility. I have no doubt that these students who are receiving these valuable lessons will carry them into greatness for our county.”

Flowers also stressed the importance of community support when it comes to the future of Crenshaw County students. 

“For a student to see that their community, principal and county administration fully supports them and is dedicated to meeting their needs is surreal to my students,” Flowers said. “Without the constant support of Ashley Catrett, Career Academy Director; and Superintendent Dodd Hawthorne, we couldn’t have made this possible. The CCBOE along with Mr. Coleman have trusted in me to guide these students into success, and that’s absolutely our destination.”