Johnston iJAG team wins trip to Florida to compete in nationals

IJAG winnerJOHNSTON, Ia. (March 24, 2023) — Johnston High School students Sam Mills, Mylee Lisle and Manuel Celestino took 1st place Thursday, March 23 in PBL (Project-Based Learning) Showcase at the state iJAG Career Development Conference.

Their project allowed students to express themselves by writing their own pieces of music for a film.

Sam, Mylee and Manuel won an all-expense paid trip to Florida and will compete with other JAG schools across the nation at the National Career Development Conference (NCDC), April 20-22 in Orlando. The national event features general sessions, competitive events, educational workshops, leadership development training, and college and career exploration.


Elvis Grimes, Signa Holt, Ilhana Palic, Raven Parizek, Josey Polk

The team of three were among 16 Johnston iJAG (Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates) students who qualified for the state Career Development Conference held Thursday, March 23 at the Iowa Events Center. Those qualifying as individuals or groups were:

  • Creative Decision Making: Elvis Grimes, Signa Holt, Ilhana Palic, Raven Parizek, Josey Polk
  • Career Preparation: Jarred Brannon
  • Prepared Speaking: Gabe Morales
  • Employability Skills: Shaniya Barnes
  • Financial Literacy: Dawson Young
  • PBL Showcase: Sam Mills, Manuel Celestino, and Mylee Lisle
  • Business Plan: Vivan Moss, Grace Passehl, Francisco Pelayo-Pintor, Bella Petersen


Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates, or iJAG, is in its first year in Johnston. Breannah Suntken is leading the program at JHS as its instructor.


Jarred Brannon, Gabe Morales, Shaniya Barnes, Dawson Young

Iowa one of 39 states with JAG, which helps kids build the skills they need to be successful in the classroom, on the job and in life. Each year, the program serves 2,800 students in 74 programs reaching 29 communities in Iowa and Illinois.

The non-profit connects business and education to help prevent dropouts and provide school-to-career solutions. iJAG provides small-group instruction to students, helping them master 37 core competencies related to school, work, and life success.

Employers visit the classroom to make presentations, critique student work and resumes, host mock interviews and provide mentoring. The program also provides students hands-on learning opportunities including job site visits, job shadowing, internships, pre-apprenticeships, summer job training or work for pay.

Some students choose iJAG because a conventional classroom doesn’t work for them, or they may be experiencing distractions or barriers at school or at home. The program relies on real-world, project-based instructional methods and an unconventional approach that emphasizes personal connections with students.


Vivan Moss, Grace Passehl, Francisco Pelayo-Pintor, Bella Petersen

Last year, iJAG students graduated at a rate of 97% despite facing significant barriers. That’s better than Iowa’s best-in-the-nation rate of 91.6%, according to the program’s website.

See related stories:

Mock interviews help Johnston students prepare for their future

Johnston inducts first group of 37 iJAG students

iJAG coming to Johnston next year