‘Educating the Whole Child’: After-School Arts Program Returns to Jackson Public Schools

With their faces adorned in colorful masks they painted themselves, middle- and high-school students within the Jackson Public School District have taken turns this semester writing, narrating and silently acting out skits based on African proverbs.

These assignments teach participating students how to tell stories through both monologues and body language, key focuses in Amia Edwards’ “3.2.1. Action!” after-school program. Edwards is the CEO and founder of the Amiable Arts Foundation, a nonprofit that is helping prepare Jackson youth for vocations, college and careers in film, theater, and performing arts.

“I’m really challenging both our stage (and) film actors and directors to know how to use their bodies to portray a character and not only depend on their words,” Edwards told the Mississippi Free Press. “Even this week, we’re learning the historical significance of the (African) laugh-now, cry-later theater masks that you see.”

One of Edwards’ favorite African proverbs that she tells her students is, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito,” which suggests that anyone can leave a lasting mark on this world with enough determination.

After receiving positive feedback from students, parents and administrators during the program’s first year in 2021, Edwards announced on Oct. 10, 2022, that the program is returning to Jackson Public Schools and expanding, with Powell Middle School joining six other middle and high schools that previously collaborated with the Amiable Arts Foundation for this project.

As part of the curriculum, Edwards challenges the up-and-coming artists with daily tongue twisters so that they can better learn to enunciate their words at varying speeds.

Amiable Arts Foundation CEO and founder Amia Edwards and Jackson Public School Office of Innovative Strategy Executive Director Samecia Stokes met during last year’s student-led film festival where high schoolers in the arts program showcased their projects. Photo courtesy Amia Edwards

“Amiable Productions provides theater and film, arts, and culture after-school enrichment programs and activities for middle and high-school students and the Jackson Public School District,” Jackson Public Schools Office of Innovative Strategy Executive Director Samecia Stokes told the

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