Students ‘JAM’ at John Story Jenks School

Saia Chin, Gianna Jones and Jade Little work on their in-class assignments. — PHOTO BY PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE PHOTOGRAPHER / JARID A. BARRINGER

Take a look inside room 211 and see fourth-graders Judah Logan, Jasmine Greene and Amira Ellis. The three students have books opened and are engaged in reading assignments. But, reading isn’t the only activity keeping the students’ interests. At John Story Jenks, the extra-curricular activities are popular among students.

In her fourth year as principal, Mary Williams Lynskey said her goal is to always have activities at Jenks. To provide enrichment activities to students, Lynskey began a program called JAM — Jenks Arts and Music Program — for students in the fourth through eighth grades. In JAM, students learn to play various instruments like the xylophone and guitar.

“The whole message behind that is we try and engage kids in their talent and area of interest so that if they feel successful in that, then they will see school as a success and it will bleed over in their academics. Every kid should have another level of engagement outside of academics,” Lynskey said.

And another level of engagement comes from students’ involvement in clubs. Seventh-graders Aniyah Pinkey, Christine Dawson-Hanies, Tyler Godwin and Jaquann Henderson participate in student council, recycling club, yearbook, market place, safety patrol and choir.

In the market place club, students get the opportunity to sell healthy snacks to their peers.

Students also receive foreign language education. The third through eighth grades include Spanish, French, German and Mandarin. In sixth grade, students receive a Rosetta Stone license for independent study of one of the four languages. Parents are also invited to have a license at home for a family learning experience.

“We’re very proud of that,” Lynskey said. “We want to prepare them for the highest [ranked] high schools and [are] trying to get students to think like high school students.”

Other amenities at Jenks are the Wii Fitness Center and a rock-climbing wall.

Despite tight budgets of the district, Lynskey said she wants to maintain programming.

“Let’s give them the middle school experience because that’s something that they’re going to need to help alleviate any fears of high school — because they at least would have had a locker [and] going to different teachers with different expertise,” Lynskey said.

Eighth-grader Mikhaela Bass has been in the gifted program since sixth grade. With plans to attend Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) High School for creative writing, Science Leadership Academy, Engineering and Science High School, Parkway North West or Constitution High School, Mikhaela said her most memorable experiences were field trips to Washington.

Similarly, eighth-grader Kai Jones enjoyed the tour of the White House. From her experiences in the career club for girls, Jones plans to study modeling or nursing after high school. With plans of attending Franklin Leadership Center, Science Leadership, Girls’ High or Motivation High School, Jones said she appreciates what she’s learned at Jenks.

“The teachers are really nice. They encourage us. They are motivating us to try harder,” Jones said.

Eighth-grader Amaia Bowman plans to take a different direction. With interests in singing and acting, Bowman said her most memorable experience was playing Miss Hannigan in the school musical “Annie.”

“At the end of the show, everybody stood up and gave me a big round of applause and I just remember going home that night and I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes, I finally did it,’” Bowman said.

This year’s play was the “Wizard of Oz.” Bowman played the Wicked Witch of the West.

The actress wants to continue her talents in high school. She plans to attend CAPA, Girls’ High School, Parkway North West or Franklin Learning Center.

Didn’t make the musical, or participate in Art Day or Literacy Week? No worries. According to Lynskey, there are many opportunities for community involvement.

“Our whole calendar is based around events. One of our goals is to say, ‘something is always happening at Jenks.’ There’s a lot of nice moments,” Lynskey said.

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