WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ten years ago, Michigan was struggling as much as anywhere in the United States. There was no end to the recession in sight, and the state’s famed automotive and manufacturing industries were facing an uncertain future. The communities that depended on those industries were suffering from layoffs and a diminishing tax base, which hit school districts in turn. For places like Benton Harbor, a small city in the lower peninsula that had below-average high school graduation rates even in the best of times, a crisis seemed imminent.

That’s what compelled a group of community leaders to bring the nationally acclaimed Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program to Michigan. Aptly named Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG), the program improves high school graduation rates and prepares students for success post-graduation.

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