Forever A Panther
Powers prepares to leave JCHS, heading to WJMS
After 16 years of working at the school where he graduated from in the early 2000s, Jason Powers is moving onto the next step in his professional career. As school winds down, Powers admits he is feeling a lot of emotions.
The former wrestling state champion turned educator and head Jackson County High School wrestling coach said the key for him, though, is still being able to serve the West Jackson community.
He also gets to remain a Panther.
His move is just a few miles down the road to West Jackson Middle School, where he will begin serving as an assistant principal this summer.
“There is nowhere else I would rather be,” Powers said. “I have a passion for this place. The intent after (college) graduation was to come back. I felt there to be a calling to come back, just work in the community. I fell in love with this community in the past 16 years.
“To live and work in the West Jackson community is really my passion.”
Powers and his wife, Amy, are both educators inside Jackson County High School. They have two sons who are inside the Jackson County School System. Building his own path as an educator has been something he has thought a lot about, and he hopes both of his sons draw their own path in life as well.
“I don’t want them to follow in my footsteps. I want them to make their own path; that has always been my vision for them growing up,” Powers said. “My dad was a football coach growing up. That was his passion. I grew up on a football field. But when you’re 100 pounds, football might not necessarily be your thing. Dad gave me the ability to go on and create my own path. And that is my vision for my kids.”
Part of Powers’ path was claiming three state championship wrestling titles as a student at JCHS. He then attended the University of Georgia and came back to JCHS right after graduation, serving as a teacher and coach. He has been the head wrestling coach and developed the program into a perennial powerhouse. Powers had three state championship wrestlers this season.
“Leaving wrestling was a brutal choice. But honestly, we have had a lot of success over the years,” Powers said. “A lot of phenomenal kids and now we are starting to see the fruits of investing into a youth program from the time these kids were five.”
Powers’ replacement was named earlier this month. Jim Gassman will be the next head wrestling coach, coming to JCHS from Mountain View High School in Gwinnett County. Powers said to be able to leave his program in the hands of a high-character individual like Gassman makes the jump to assistant principal at WJMS a lot easier.
“I am extraordinarily excited to see Coach Gassman come in and add to that, it is going to be phenomenal. We are leaving it in great hands,” Powers said. “But the process of stepping away from the program became easier because I really felt like it was what I was being called to do.
“The relationships I’ve built with these kids matter more to me than anything in this world. Wins and losses are one thing, and I am a super competitive person. I always want to win. But it is the relationships with those kids that truly matter.”
Remaining in the community while being able to advance his professional career was a huge key for Powers. He admitted that he was committed to staying a Panther, even if that meant passing up an opportunity to serve in a leadership position somewhere else in the region.
“I think this is a great community to raise kids in. It has so many opportunities close by; we’re a really diverse community and they get so many opportunities to interact with people,” Powers said. “There is nowhere else I would rather raise my kids than right here in this community.”
Powers admitted his role at West Jackson Middle School will bring new challenges for him, but he said he is excited for what the role will hold. The key is learning students in the middle grades and finding a way to help shape them for the future.
“Working with sixth through eighth graders, there are a lot of advantages,” Powers said. “It is such an influential age. Sometimes, by time students hit high school, they kind of know who they are. But in middle school, I feel like we can really guide them down the right path.”
Another major change in work location for Powers will include not working with Amy anymore, but now having the ability to work in the same school as his oldest son, Cael.
“(Being with Cael) is going to be awesome. Being with my kids and being able to invest with them and the friends they have,” Powers said. “I am helping coach a sixth-grade baseball team right now. A lot of those kids on that team are going to be at West Jackson Middle School next year. So it is a cool opportunity to be able to work with your own kid.
“I am not sure what he thinks about it. I have asked him several times and he’s like ‘it is going to be fine.’ I don’t think he necessarily knows what it means, and I am not sure I know what it means.”
When looking back on his 16 years as an educator at Jackson County High School, in addition to the four years as a student, Powers said he is proud to have been a part of the changes that have taken place, building each day to become better.
“What is the old saying, ‘you want to leave it better than you found it’? Jackson County has changed so much in the 16 years, or really since I have been involved; my dad came to Jackson County High School in 1993, so I have seen the development,” Powers said. “We have changed so much, but it has been for the better. We have changed a lot in just the last couple of years. It is exciting to see where Jackson County is going and to be a part of that community, it is not something I would sacrifice for anything.”