JAG Nevada Story

Governor Brian Sandoval, in his 2013 State of the State address, pledged to bring JAG to Nevada after learning about the impact of the model on youth of promise in other states where JAG student graduation rates exceeded state and national graduation rates.  As a champion for education who has led Nevada in becoming the fastest improving school system in the nation, Governor Sandoval proposed funding for JAG as a key strategy to reduce the dropout rate and increase employment rate for youth in Nevada.

At that time, the state was in the throes of deep economic recession, and JAG was one of the few new enhancements the Governor proposed over the next biennium as an investment for Nevada’s youth of promise.

In the fall of 2013, the JAG nonprofit was established under the leadership of Dale Erquiaga and Frank Woodbeck, two of Governor Sandoval’s cabinet members.  In February 2014, Dr. René Cantú Jr. was appointed Executive Director to launch JAG Nevada statewide.  From his hire as the first employee of JAG in 2014, the nonprofit today employs over 70 dedicated educators and support staff who are helping change the lives of youth through the implementation of the JAG model across Nevada.  In October, 2014, Governor Sandoval appointed the 26 inaugural members of the JAG board of directors and conducted the inaugural meeting.  Drawing from some of the brightest minds in the state, the Governor appointed a majority of members from the private sector as well as representatives from K-12.

Since inception, JAG has helped change the lives of almost 10,000 students in Nevada.  This growth was accomplished with state government and private enterprise joining together to create a diverse funding base for a program that yields 94% plus graduation rates and cuts youth unemployment in half among youth participants. Strada Education Network, AT&T, and MGM Resorts International have joined in funding this expanded effort across Nevada

Management Team

Led by Executive Director Cantú, the management team is responsible for carrying out the business of the organization, ensuring that the strategic direction set forth by the board of directors is followed, and confirming that the fiscal and programmatic elements of the program are carried out efficiently and effectively.  Dr. Cantú is assisted by the Director of Finance and Operations, Debbie Tarantino, whose main role is to ensure that the organization operates in a fiscally efficient manner that complies with generally accepted accounting principles. Dr. Cantú and Ms. Tarantino have assembled a dynamic, results-driven team, whose performance is best demonstrated by the stellar outcomes of the organization.


Oversight of the program in a geographically vast state like Nevada necessitated that two offices be established to conduct the business of the nonprofit.  The office where the executive director resides is located on the Charleston campus of College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas.  A satellite office located in Reno houses JAG’s Director of Business Development, JAG Coordinator and Education to Employment (E2E) Facilitator who provide service and support to the programs in Western and rural Nevada..


The state of Nevada has been organized into 3 distinct regions for the purpose of meeting the local needs of the communities JAG Nevada serves.  Region 1 includes western Nevada communities including Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Hawthorne and Fernley.  Region 2 encompasses the largest geographic region and includes West Wendover, White Pine, McDermitt and Panaca.  Region 3 is comprised entirely of schools in the Clark County School District and includes the communities of Henderson, Moapa Valley, Mesquite and Las Vegas.

School Advisory Committee

Each school principal assigns an advisory committee, which will assist the JAG Specialist in the recruitment of students who meet program criteria.  Prior to hiring the JAG Specialist, the principal and members of the advisory committee work in concert with the JAG Nevada management team to recruit, interview and select the JAG Specialist.  By interviewing and hiring the JAG Specialist jointly, the school administration develops a sense of ownership over the JAG Nevada program in their community.