JAG specialist Chantrice Morrison breaks down student barriers, named Lowndes County Career Technical Education teacher of the month

Published 3:24 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

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The Lowndes County Career Technical Education program recently recognized Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) specialist Chantrice Morrison as October Teacher of the Month.

The 10-year veteran teacher is new to Lowndes County Schools and is the first JAG specialist for the county.

According to career tech director Shameka Baker, Morrison has a “heart of gold” and spends her days as a JAG specialist helping students enrolled in the trade program to fight and overcome barriers to graduation by whatever means necessary.

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“Students may be living with their grandparents, which means they’re not living with their parents,” Baker reflected. “Some students may be a grade or two behind. Some students may struggle with anxiety or self-confidence. Some students may have incarcerated parents, and these are just a list of some, because the list of barriers that students may face is long.”

Recently, Morrison talked with one young lady whose grandmother had a stroke the night before. The student struggled with guilt after her mother blamed her with creating the stress which led to the grandmother’s stroke.

“She needed to talk,” Morrison recalled. “I had to comfort her. I let her know, “Hey, it’s not you.’ Sometimes we as parents are learning how to parent. I let them know I am here to help.”

Morrison said JAG is a national program designed to help high school students reach and achieve graduation. High school students encounter barriers like absence or disciplinary issues, depression, homelessness, emotional disorders, or the absence of one or both parents from the home, and many others.

Her job, she noted, is to help them overcome whatever barriers which may prevent them from graduating.

“We’re teaching them the soft skills they need for employment,” Morrison explained. “Some of those soft skills could be public speaking or leadership development skills. It could also be career development.

“We teach them to focus on what their career is or what they want it to be. We teach five goals of social awareness, and they learn to interact with others, how to handle their emotions, and how to come back from issues that may arise. We help them fight through their fears.”

Another student in the program couldn’t read, Morrison said. She offered to help him learn the skill.

Now the student comes eager to learn, Morrison beamed. Even top students face barriers, she noted, and she works with each one to help break down every wall.

Morrison is a counselor to the program’s students, Baker explained, and serves both The Calhoun School and Central High School in Hayneville. 

Morrison provides supplies out of her own pocket, Baker added, creating “help yourself” baskets stocked with clothing, toiletries, and other items students may need.

“Ms. Morrison does anything that she can to help the kids and to make them feel comfortable,” Baker said. “She makes them feel if they need anything, they can just ask. She also talks to the school faculty to let them know that if any of our students are in a classroom, if they are in trouble, they can refer them to her so she can try to intervene before there are consequences.”