Liberty iJAG Group Wins Big at the Career Development Conference

Ayesha Diallo, Emily Keeler, and Paris Johnson’s all-in-one beauty salon business plan earned them a spot at nationals.


Brooklyn McClinton

Ayesha Diallo, Emily Keeler, and Paris Johnson at the Career Development Conference after winning first place in the business plan category.

Imagine a beauty salon where you can get your services such as nails, hair, eyebrows, and makeup done in one spot. Imagine a beauty salon that can specialize in all different types of hair and skin tones. This is exactly what Liberty’s Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG) members Ayesha Diallo, Emily Keeler, and Paris Johnson developed for the Career Development Conference in Des Moines. 

iJAG is part of a national program (JAG) that is “dedicated to helping young people graduate from high school and make successful transitions to post-secondary education or meaningful employment.”

Every year, JAG programs around the country host competitions to showcase what students learned by being in the program. There are eight different categories- business plan, creative design making, project-based learning, L.O.V.E. project, career preparation, employability skills, prepared speaking, and financial literacy. Diallo, Keeler, and Johnson competed in the business plan category with their all-in-one beauty salon. 

“I made the business plan last year in Intro to Business… so it’s always been a desire of mine, I always wanted to open a beauty salon,” said Diallo. 

However, it wouldn’t be complete without help from Keeler and Johnson. 

“[Emily] built a floor plan on how our salon would look… and then Paris was adding weaknesses and strengths to our salon. We were coming together as a group to bring it to life,” said Diallo. 

After writing a 10-page paper and submitting a video pitch, the girls were able to compete in the Career Development Conference. As it was the first year that Liberty’s iJAG competed, they did run into obstacles when preparing. 

“One issue we did have [when practicing], was just reading off of notecards. But when you present [at a competition], you want it to be a speech… not relying on the PowerPoint and notecards,” said iJAG teacher Brooklyn McClinton. 

However, with improvement, practice, and persistence the girls took home first place out of 70 groups in the business plan category. 

“[When they said] first place, Iowa City Liberty… my heart dropped to my stomach, my group members were screaming, it was just a crazy moment,” reflected Diallo.

[When they said] first place, Iowa City Liberty… my heart dropped to my stomach, my group members were screaming, it was just a crazy moment.

— Ayesha Diallo

McClinton reflects on how the girls simply introducing themselves played a large role in their success.

“They practiced their GNAP’s, which is greeting, name, affiliation, and purpose, so it’s basically how you introduce yourself…right when they walked in they went up to each of the judges, introduced themselves, and gave them a handshake. Which goes a long way, you’ll be surprised,” said McClinton. 

All the first-place winners in each of the categories moved on to the national competition in Orlando, Florida. However, expenses like travel, food, and lodging can be a barrier for many. Luckily, one of JAG’s missions is to make these opportunities accessible for all. 

“Our flights were paid for, our hotels were paid for, and our food was paid for… everything was paid for,” said Diallo. 

Two weeks later, the girls competed, networked, and met more people at the national JAG convention. 

“We didn’t place [at nationals]… but it was a learning moment because we made it that far and even if we didn’t place or anything we still got the opportunity to go and be with other kids in JAG,” said Diallo. 

The group doesn’t want to stop there. They plan to take the feedback from their competitions from this year and apply again next year. Considering the success from their first year, the sky is the limit for this group.

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