Page 2 of 6912345...102030...Last »

Band Marches to Capture 20 Awards This Year


Jackson Academy’s marching band had a stellar year, completing the season with 20 awards and top color guard honors at each of the band’s four competitions.
The band attended competitions at Briarcrest School in Memphis, Copiah Academy in Gallman, Choctawhatchee High School in Ft. Walton Beach, and hosted the MAIS Marching Band Championships at JA.

In the group’s late October trip to Florida, the band faced rigorous competition at the Emerald Coast Marching Band Classic and was awarded second place overall, earning all superior ratings and Best In Class for band, color guard, percussion, and drum major. The group also enjoyed some downtime at the beach, the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, and a Cirque du Soleil show.

The band is under the direction of Todd Taylor, Clara Watts, and Jeremy Burnham. Band director Todd Taylor said he is looking for additional band members, including colorguard and drumline. If a student is interested, they are encouraged to contact him at, or stop by the band hall.


Marketing Staff Helps JA Share Its Remarkable Story


Jonathan Blackwell, graphic designer, Patti Wade, director of marketing and communications, and Rachel Eason, interactive media coordinator, work with JA’s website, social media, magazine, weekly newsletter, print material, advertising, and the news media.


Once upon a time there were three people who had a story to tell. The very worthwhile story was told through channels called the website, social media, the magazine, the newsletter, advertising, and news media. The storytellers made the website informative, wrote and produced the weekly newsletter, photographed over 300 events per year, responded when the media called, developed print and digital advertising, and produced JA’s magazine. They drafted creative daily and weekly posts to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’d like to introduce you to these storytellers and help you know which person to contact for what request.


Jonathan Blackwell

Graphic designer Jonathan Blackwell came to JA in May with 17 years of experience in print design and 10 years experience in website design. He is a well-rounded communications professional who has worked most recently as senior art director with The Gibbes Company, an agency in Ridgeland. He was selected Designer of the Year by the American Advertising Federation of Jackson in 2009. Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Science in graphic design from Mississippi College and an Associate of Arts from Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Jonathan and his wife, Beth, have a one-year-old daughter, Cora, who looks forward to being a JA Raider.

What attracted you to JA?

I have always heard good things about Jackson Academy and thought it would be a great place to work, but from a design standpoint, I was attracted to the prospect of being a part of establishing and promoting the school both visually and creatively. My past experiences in advertising have allowed me to work on numerous projects, but never any one brand for an extended period of time. In considering JA, I saw the challenge of working for an organization to promote its character, values, and uniqueness from the inside.

What has been the biggest surprise to you about the environment here?

Having never worked in education, I was initially surprised by how much each department is interconnected with marketing and communications.

What are some of the things you look forward to doing while at JA?

I’m looking forward to utilizing my creativity and expertise to help elevate the visual identity of the school. I am also looking forward to seeing the finished product of the new website redesign.

What is a “little known fact” about you?

A couple of little known facts about me are that I played in several (rock) bands throughout college and after, and I’ve run 4 marathons, including the 2013 New York City Marathon.

What is something that you feel is one of your strengths that you look forward to utilizing in your new job?

I believe one of my greatest strengths as a designer is looking for unconventional solutions to solving design problems. I like the idea of finding inspiration in unlikely places and transforming those ideas into creative solutions.


Rachel Eason

As interactive media coordinator, Rachel Eason coordinates JA’s social media and photography as well as supports the department’s initiatives that include the Tuesday Raider, news distribution, advertising, and website content. Rachel arrived at JA in June after completing two years as an admissions counselor at Belhaven University and the recent completion of a master’s degree in communication at Mississippi College. She earned her undergraduate degree at Belhaven University in 2013. Rachel is originally from Huntsville, AL. She is an accomplished instrumentalist who plays the viola and ukulele.

What attracted you to JA?

When I finally looked up from my graduate research to the horizon where I would need a job, I asked God for three specific things; I asked to have a job and mentor in the field of marketing and communications, because navigating in a headwind is far more challenging than in the safety of a classroom; I asked for a job that allowed me to serve a community, because I know my purpose is ultimately always people; finally, I asked for a job that allowed me the freedom to learn new skills. All of these were met at JA, where a thriving community that pushes to learn and grow has welcomed me, and where Patti Wade and Jonathan Blackwell are patient teachers and mentors to the newest member of our marketing team – me!

What are some of the things you look forward to doing while at JA?

I look forward to hearing and sharing stories from the students, staff, faculty, and alumni who create the amazing environment here at JA.

What is a “little known fact” about you?

The great thing about being new is that everything is a “little known fact”! I can be pretty quiet, but don’t be fooled – I love to try new things! From bouldering to flying planes, or more tame past-times like sushi-making, I will hardly ever turn down an opportunity to explore the world around me. I like to say that my comfort zone is getting out of my comfort zone.

What is something that you feel is one of your strengths that you look forward to utilizing in your new job?

I love to learn. Media is changing daily, and our school and students are always finding new ways to push innovation. Learning will never be optional in this role. I couldn’t be more thrilled!


Patti Wade

Jonathan and Rachel join Patti Wade, director of marketing and communications, who has been at JA since 2013. She has 20 years experience in higher education, having served in faculty and staff roles at Millsaps College and Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Patti holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public relations from The University of Southern Mississippi, with additional MBA coursework from Millsaps. Patti is the incoming president of the Public Relations Association of Mississippi and current vice president of education services for the Southern Public Relations Federation, an association of  PR professionals from Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana. She obtained the accredited in public relations credential (APR) in 2013. She and her husband, Frank, have two daughters who graduated from JA in 2010 (Rachel) and 2013 (Sarah, better known at JA as Swade).

What attracted you to JA?

We first became interested in JA when we moved to Flowood in 2002 and our girls were elementary age. Of all the schools we visited in the Jackson Metro area, JA offered the opportunity to have both children on one campus. I was working at Millsaps College, so being able to get to campus quickly and participating in the girls’ activities were very important to us.

What do you value about the environment at JA?

JA is a positive place to work. Many times in my first year, Peter Jernberg or Cliff Kling would stop by and thank me or comment on how well we had done on something we had just produced. To be genuinely thanked so frequently really made an impression on me. Although my nature is to do my best anyway, to have someone verbalize that they recognized the work was uplifting. Research shows that to be thanked is one of the top five things a leader can do for employees to increase job satisfaction.

What has been the biggest surprise to you about the environment here?

As a parent I really valued the JA atmosphere, but I was not aware of how much prayer and thought went into decisions by the school leadership until I joined the staff in 2013. We open our administrative team meetings with prayer requests and pray for those in our JA community and beyond who have illnesses, injuries, or other life challenges. The group prays for wisdom in decision making.

What is a “little known fact” about you?

I love watching the Accents, cheerleaders, and all our spirit teams dance because I was a member of the Dixie Darlings dance team at USM. It brings back fun memories. Through the field of public relations, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of interesting individuals including scientist and animal rights activist Jane Goodall, author Greg Iles, and National Geographic producer Jeremy Zipple.

What is something that you feel is one of your strengths that you use in your job?

I come from a background of journalism and organizational communication so writing, editing and promoting events are natural to me, yet I have learned that I enjoy managing projects and helping move initiatives forward for an organization. I am looking forward to coordinating the new website redesign with our team and helping envision how JA might celebrate its 60th anniversary.


Where to direct questions:

General requests can be made to However, if you have specific request about any of the items below, you can contact the staff member directly at, and

Marketing & Communications Project Examples

JA Swimmers Earn Overall Championship


The Jackson Academy Swim Team once again has shown that we’re simply better together! JA swimmers won the MAIS Overall Championship that is awarded to the school with the most points in first through twelfth grades. In the elementary division, JA brought home a second place trophy. Congratulations to all the JA swimmers!

Individual and team placements and records:

  • Isabella Conn broke a record in 25 Free with a time of 13.34
  • Parker Bracken 2nd in 50 Free
  • 7th-9th Boys Free Relay 3rd
    Jackson Conn, Ford Hudson, Adams Kennedy and Parker Ryan
  • 7th-9th Girls Free Relay 1st
    Ava Crawford, Julianna Copeland, Alice Williams, Parker Bracken
  • Jackson Conn 1st in 50 Breast
  • Parker Bracken 3rd in 50 Breast
  • Jackson Conn 2nd 50 Back
  • Ava Crawford 3rd 50 Back
  • Ava Crawford 2nd 50 Fly
  • 7th-9th Boys Medley Relay 3rd place
    Jackson Conn, Adams Kennedy, Ford Hudson, Will Adams
  • 7th-9th girls Medley 2nd place
    Julianna Copeland, Parker Bracken, Alice Williams, Ava Crawford
  • 1st-3rd boys Free Relay 2nd
    Smith Haralson, Parker Orr, Barron Mosal, Walter Towery
  • 1-3 girls Free Relay 2nd
    Anna Hollady Craft, Brianna Wang, Adrianna Wang, Sarah Kathryn Williams
  • Walter Towery 1st place back stroke
  • Brianna Wang 3rd place backstroke
  • Walter Towery 2nd place 100 IM
  • Brianna Wang 2nd place 100 IM
  • Parker Orr 2nd place 25 Breast
  • Adrianna Wang 2nd place 25 Breast
  • Smith Haralson 2nd place 25 Fly
  • Sarah Kathryn Williams 3rd place 25 Fly
  • Smith Haralson 3rd place 50 Free
  • Adrianna Wang 1st place 50 Free
  • 1-3 Girls Medley Relay 1st Place
    Anna Holladay Craft, Sarah Kathryn Williams, Adrianna Wang, Brianna Wang
  • 4-6 boys 3rd Place Free Relay
    Baird Kennedy, Major Quin, Cole Gideon, Cam Walker
  • 4-6 Girls Free Relay 1st place
    Katherine Gault, Anna Kate Lucas, Liles Williams, Isabella Conn
  • Major Quin 2nd Place 50 Back
  • Major Quin 2nd Place 100 IM
  • Baird Kennedy 3rd Place 25 Free
  • Isabella Conn 1st Place 50 Breast
  • Liles Williams 3rd place 50 Fly
  • 4-6 Girls Medley Relay 1st place
    Katherine Gault, Anna Kate Lucas, Liles Williams, Isabella Conn

Former Governor and JA Grandparent Haley Barbour Visits Lower School

fullsizeoutput_757eIt was a toss-up as to who was the most impressive: our former governor who wowed fourth graders with little known historical facts about Mississippi, or the fourth graders who peppered him with questions until teacher Sandra Triplett called for the last question due to time constraints.

Fourth grade classes thoroughly enjoyed their time with former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour as he described what it was like to be a governor, information about the inhabitants of Mississippi before statehood, and how Mississippi will become the first state to build a state-funded Civil Rights Museum. Governor Barbour encouraged the students, who demonstrated a keen interest in the subjects presented, to not lose their interest in politics. He also urged students to take responsibility for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Governor Barbour was joined by his wife, Marsha, and greeted warmly by fourth graders, and especially his grandchildren Ava, Haley, and Ebbie.


JA Graduate in ‘Same Kind of Different as Me’


Mary Hunter Johnston’s credited role in “Same Kind of Different As Me” opened the acting door for the 2017 Jackson Academy graduate and gave her a chance to step inside one of her favorite books.

“I really enjoyed the experience and would do it again if I have the opportunity,” she said.

The movie starring Renée Zellweger, Greg Kinnear, and Djimon Hounsou is based on the book by the same title, about a wealthy art dealer, a homeless man, and the woman who brought them together. The true, inspirational story became a best seller.

Mary Hunter’s dad, Stephen D. Johnston, was a producer of the movie filmed in metro Jackson in fall 2014. They made sure the cast felt at home while filming, having them over to the house and taking them out to dinner. Spending time on set with Olivia Holt (Disney Channel’s “I Didn’t Do It”), who played the lead couple’s daughter in the film, was a particular treat.

Mary Hunter’s role as The Little Girl at the homeless mission is a small, dramatic part in a crucial scene. With a credited role, she had her own trailer during her week of filming, breakfast delivery included. “I also had my hair and makeup done while sitting next to Renée Zellweger.”

The movie’s release is set for Oct. 20, with a premiere October 19 at Malco Grandview in Madison. Mary Hunter cannot wait. “This movie is so powerful and has a great message for our country.”

Seeing herself on the big screen? “A little weird,” she predicted. “I have a feeling I will go see it more than once!”


View the movie trailer at

Page 2 of 6912345...102030...Last »