LOOKS BRIGHT: High spirit student finds perfect match at East St. John Prep

Published 12:13 am Saturday, January 20, 2018

RESERVE — With a natural curiosity driving a love of learning, East St. John Preparatory Academy eighth grader Jai Gaines enjoys attending school and taking part in new experiences.

Bursting with school pride, she thinks of her classmates and teachers as family.

“Our school is a very high spirit school,” Jai said. “There’s never a dull moment. When we came into school on the first day, they welcomed us with a red carpet and music. Our teachers, principal and staff are always working to make sure we have fun when we’re learning.”

Jai Gaines stands with Hope Carter, her computer teacher and volleyball coach.

Jai is pleased to have been part of the inaugural year of the rebranded East St. John Preparatory Academy, noting the school’s focus on only fifth through eighth grade students has opened greater opportunities for extracurricular involvement.

Staying involved is a priority for Jai, and she represents her school through various awards and contests.

Handmade campaign posters hang throughout school hallways, serving as a reminder of Jai’s fall 2017 homecoming queen title. This semester, she’s vying for a District Student of the Year designation following a win at the school level.

Jai has also advanced to District competition in the science and social studies fairs, both of which she’s competed in since fifth grade despite the school only requiring one project per year.

Jai holds leadership positions in 4-H and Explorers Club, an organization that introduces students to postsecondary educational opportunities.

Basketball is something Jai Gaines is looking forward to continuing next school year at East St. John High.

Her love for animals has guided her toward veterinary science, which she intends to study at Tuskegee University in Alabama. During high school, Jai has plans to apply to Tuskegee’s Vet-Step summer program to earn college credits prior to graduation.

At East St. John Prep, Jai also participates in Beta Club, talented drama and STEM Club. She’s participated in STEM nights to teach younger students about virtual reality technology and electrical circuits.

Talented theatre is something Jai looks forward to continuing at East St. John High, along with basketball, which she’s enjoyed immensely since joining the team this year.

Jai has also been involved in volleyball, cheerleading, dance and track and field and has won a national championship for javelin throwing.

Through it all, she’s maintained a 4.0 GPA and has been recognized by the St. John Parish School Board for scoring higher than an 800 on her LEAP.

Hope Carter, Jai’s computer teacher and volleyball coach, said she could talk on and on about the star student’s positive attitude and will to excel.

“Jai is a wonderful kid,” Carter said. “She’s so energetic. She’s a go-getter who really does well in any class that you put her in, and I’m totally proud of her.”

Carter said Jai’s insightfulness and ability to focus on the task at hand has contributed to her success in and outside of the classroom.

Seventh grader Norelle Frank is in many of the same clubs as Jai, and she’s seen Jai in leadership positions, describing her as a hard worker with a good heart.

“Jai is a very cool person,” Norelle said. “She’s nice, and she loves the people around her. She’ll do anything possible to make the school better or her classroom better.”

Jai said she focuses her life around the G-F-E system: God, family, education.

Her schedule can get overwhelming, but she knows when to take a break and how much she’s capable of handling. If Jai ever finds herself in a tough spot academically, she knows she can find inspiration from her mother, assistant principal Johnika Gayden-Gaines.

“My mom inspires me a lot because she pushes through everything,” Jai said.

“She always teaches me to push myself, and I never strive for anything less than what I am. Anytime I feel like I want to quit something, she tells me you never quit until you finish.”