West high school program helps students graduate

DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) -- A program at Davenport West High School is making sure more students graduate.

“Once I got in there, I told my mom and she was like that's good, you're in the program because I’m doing a lot better in school,” said Quintonna Burrage, iJag student.

Quintonna Burrage is on track to graduate high school and it's all because of her teacher Miss Cynthia Safford believing in her.

“School wasn't really my thing, so I just really didn't go. Then when I got put in iJag, everything changed,” said Burrage.

Miss Safford has been an education specialist for “iJag” at West High School for four years now.

“iJag is Iowa’s Jobs for American Graduates and it is a school based non-profit program aimed at helping students make that leap from high school to real life,” said Safford.

The program is aimed to help students facing barriers from graduating. Only 50 kids are accepted each school year. This classroom isn't a traditional one, the students focus on doing hands on work, learning about different career paths, and giving back to the community.

Miss Safford says taking the students to volunteer at Hayes Elementary is one way they learn about community service. Nicholas Hayes is the class president and sets up a lot of the volunteer opportunities. A couple weeks ago, he sent a few of his classmates to the elementary where they went through an interview process with the children.

Hayes says since he joined the program his junior year, he’s seen his classmates grow.

“I have a solid plan for what I am going to do after high school and I think a lot of people that are scared to graduate are really just scared of being an adult, being on their own and having to figure out what they are going to go do,” said Hayes.

Safford says it's the impact they make and growth the program gives the students that make it worthwhile.

“They enter college, an apprenticeship, whatever after high school and they are doing it, “said Safford. “Next thing you know they are out there in the world being a productive member of society,”

As the school year continues, Burrage can't wait to graduate.

“My grades have been better, my attendance has been better, it's a good leadership program,” said Burrage.

Part of the program is also making sure the students follow through on what they say they will do. So the school follows them for a year to keep pushing them to become their best selves. iJag is offered in schools in both Iowa and Illinois. Many of the volunteering or trips the students take are funded by themselves.

They are hosting a December Fest event on December 12th at the high school. It starts at 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. All kids 12 and under $5 gets you games, arts, and crafts. The program is also always looking for community members to come and speak to students about their career path. You can send an email to Safford: saffordc@davenportschools.org