Akaylah Jones’ mother taught her opportunity comes through service to others.
“If you give of yourself willingly to others, God is going to return that to you,” Jones said.
She has applied that lesson since she was in high school, with her work through BSA Venturing Scouts and EAST Initiative’s EAST Lab.
After earning her undergraduate degree in vocal performance from Henderson State University in 2013, Jones joined Americorps, where she did volunteer work in various areas of the country, from Denver, to a border town in Arizona, to Mena, Ark.
Her work in an elementary classroom in inner-city Denver helping second-graders with reading stands out in her mind as a highlight.
“I was only there for about a month, but those kids touched my heart so much,” she said. “Some of them were crying because I was leaving, and some of them wrote me thank you notes about how much I helped with their reading. It was an amazing experience.”
From there, she decided to pursue a career related to education and youth development. “Something just clicked,” she said, “and I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Now, she serves as an adviser/instructor at the Future School of Fort Smith, a public charter high school in its first year.
There, she teaches world history and music theory, but the primary role for the faculty at the school is advisory, Jones said.
The Future School is focused on holistic education, so advisers work with students on professional and interpersonal skills, lead them through the process of career and academic planning and even help them “navigate the daily struggles of being a teenager in high school,” she said. It is also focused on real-world learning experience, so each student has an internship outside the school.
She believes strongly in the school’s mission but has decided to end her career at Future School after this semester. The Little Rock native is engaged to be married in September and is moving back to central Arkansas, where her fiancé lives and works.
There, she hopes to find a job at a nonprofit that serves youth.