Rolling Out

Jai McClendon Jones explains why extracurricular activities are a must

Artistic director of AREA Atlanta discusses what inspired her

This Sisters with Superpowers story is sponsored by Chevy.

Jai McClendon Jones explains why extracurricular activities are a must
AREA Atlanta founder Jai McClendon Jones. (Photo credit: Rashad Milligan for rolling out)

My AREA Atlanta hosted its 2022 Frozen Wings Winter Showcase at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center on Dec. 17. After the show, AREA founder and executive artistic director Jai McClendon Jones spoke with rolling out about the production, her program, and the significance of keeping your children involved in extracurricular activities.

How do you think the show went?

“Frozen Wings” was exceptional. We’ve worked extremely hard over the course of our year. This was the first wrap-up for the first semester. The students of our academy are some of the most talented and amazing artists here in Atlanta. It shows how they can come to the stage and project just as professionals on a platform here at the beautiful Ray Charles Performing Arts Center. It’s such an honor to be able to lead these amazingly-talented youth. In addition, we were super excited to have live musicians, on behalf of the Atlanta University Center Symphony Orchestra. It’s just phenomenal.

What role do extracurricular activities play in a child’s development?

Youth activities are very important. We start off by thinking a child’s mind is like a sponge. I’ll go by the famous quote, “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe you will achieve. Dream great dreams, but you have to make them come true.”

You have to do it now. Not tomorrow. Not yesterday, do it now because as we move into the future that still leads into now.

It’s such an honor to be able to be a champion, and role model for trailblazers in the community to ensure and make sure they understand the power and the impact of the arts, because our area truly has no limits.

What is your superpower?

My superpower is just being Jai. I think my name itself is so unique. I believe God gave me that superpower, with such a unique name, to create uniqueness and greatness amongst anyone I’m around, any community or any opportunity I associate myself with.

So, my superpower is me.

Who inspired you growing up?

Oh, I have quite a few inspirations. They range from different instructors to my mom, my grandmother, and just other people I’ve actually seen being great role models in the industry. Today, I actually honored an inspiration Mr. Tarnace Watkins, who was very critical [to the work] and has been such a champion for the area. We’re super excited for our next journey to be working in conjunction with his organization, the Grove Park Foundation, in the next emerging magnificent performing art space called the Grove Park Cultural and Performing Arts Center. I look forward to being housed there with the area and ensuring the community as a whole has the opportunity to experience it as well.

What is the value of a child dreaming of being in the arts or entertainment one day?

Make dreams and make them come true. Do it now. It’s very important we don’t get stuck on what makes us afraid.

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