By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The nation’s largest school-to-career system for at-risk youth has begun introducing its program model to schools in Pennsylvania.

And now, scores of Philadelphia students are taking advantage of it.

For example, high school senior Emmanuel Sloan, 17, has dreams of playing in the NFL.

“That’s more like a pipe dream,” he admits, “but I really want to be a nurse or something like that.”

Sloan was one of 30 students selected at Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School in West Philadelphia to participate in the “Jobs for America’s Graduates” (JAG) program, which teaches kids job and life skills such as résumé-building, interviewing, and work ethics.

“It’s going to help us get out of high school and go to college and then get jobs after,” says Sloan.

JAG is a national program founded in 1980 by former Delaware governor Pete DuPont.  The nonprofit operates in 34 states, with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania coming on board this month.

“We currently have a 93-percent graduation rate this year nationally, and a 67-percent post-secondary education placement rate,” says Anthony Powell, who graduated from JAG in Delaware in the 1980s.  He is now president of Jobs for America’s Graduates Pennsylvania.

He says the program opens doors for kids with barriers to success.

“For example, if a student is a teenage father or mother, if they have domestic violence issues in the home environment, or if they are homeless,” he says, “JAG provides that opportunity.”

Powell says he tackled tough obstacles growing up and it was his JAG mentors that pushed him to build a career.

(Anthony Powell.  Photo by Cherri Gregg)

(Anthony Powell. Photo by Cherri Gregg)

“I didn’t even think I’d go to college,” Powell (right) recalls.  “Now I have a master’s degree, working on a second master’s, and I’m running a statewide nonprofit.”

About 150 students at Universal Audenreid Charter High School in Southwest Philadelphia are also in the prorgam.

JAG-PA will officially launch in the Commonwealth at its inaugural black-tie gala “friendraiser” on Saturday.  The event will honor Philadelphia city councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Philadelphia 76ers’ forward Thaddeus Young for service to the community.

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