Coming home: ‘There are so many things here that bring me simple joy’

April 28, 2014
Paula and Ella

Paula and Ella

Paula Jury Jarvis didn’t want her daughter to walk through metal detectors at school.

Many people have traveled the world and have had life experiences that their hometowns could never offer them, but many of those people are choosing to leave those grand ventures behind to move back to their roots in search of a slower paced lifestyle. Mason County Press’ Kate Krieger meets up with some of these individuals who have decided to return home and is telling their personal stories in the series “Coming Home.”

If you want to learn more about the opportunities there are here at home, check out Talent Connect Ludington on Friday, May 9 at The Mitten Bar in downtown Ludington. See more details here.

By Kate Krieger. MCP Correspondent.

LUDINGTON – After being gone for 16 years, Ludington native, Paula Jury Jarvis, 44, knew it was time to return home, not only for piece of mind, but to help set some roots for herself and her daughter, Ella.

Graduating from Ludington High School in 1987, Paula, daughter of Ludington area teachers Chuck and Gloria Jury went on to attend Central Michigan University to student music education. Paula discussed coming home on weekends at times, but after leaving for college, she didn’t really return home full time until 2010.

“After five and a half years at CMU, I was hired at Cedar Point as a performer in 1993,” she says. “I was then hired as the elementary music teacher in Gladwin, Michigan that next school year. It was funny because my superintendent was Mike Oakes.”

Oakes served as Ludington Area Schools’ superintendent for many years after Paula had moved away.

At the end of her first school year in Gladwin, Paula decided that she needed something different and she wanted to do more performing, so she followed her brother Ken to Texas and auditioned for Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, which she compared a lot to a Six Flags type of establishment.

“My brother Ken had worked there before I got hired,” she says. “Ken had moved on, but I worked for Fiesta Texas for three years and actually met my husband, who was the drummer in my first show.”

After her three years at Fiesta Texas, Paula, Ken and her husband decided to start their own entertainment business, providing different types of entertainment to the San Antonio area.

“The three of us were tight,” she says. “We really became entrepreneurs. We bought a house together and named our business Amber Entertainment after my dog.”

While running Amber Entertainment, the three did a lot of odd jobs around San Antonio and Paula even remembered working at an open beach volleyball court, running events and scheduling games.

“We had to do everything since we owned the business,” she says. “When we started to have kids, we knew it was time to let it go.”

Before having her daughter, Ella, in 1999, Paula recorded a lullaby album in 1998 under the Amber Entertainment name. Motherhood came and kept Paula home for two years, but she managed to pick up contract gigs working as a singer and performer. She says that after 9/11 occurred, she was really inspired to get back into teaching and she accepted a job at the San Antonio Intermediate School District in the heart of San Antonio.

“It’s really who I am at heart,” she says. “I worked for two elementary schools and one of those schools was a very small charter.”

The next eight years, she worked for the charter, Stephen F. Austin Academy as a coordinator of programming. The school started off as a Pre-K through sixth, but then with help from the charter, became a Pre-K through eighth grade school. Paula was in charge of everything from teaching elementary and middle school level choir and band, coordinating schedules for students and even running the mariachi programs the school offered at times.

“Basically if it was fine arts, I was involved with it,” she says. “We had about 325 students. It was a very successful school. It’s a great school. My parents had a place down there for the winter and my dad would even come over and help with the bands.”

Coming back to Ludington during the summers while living in Texas, in 2010, Paula decided that she needed a change and moved backed to her hometown with Ella. She landed a job working for the Great Start Collaborative for the Mason-Lake Intermediate School District for two years.

“There were so many wonderful people I met in the service industry and in early childhood education while working for the ISD,” she says. “I made some wonderful relationships. It was a great learning experience.”

Paula has done many things in her lifetime so far and she is very happy that having all of those experiences could land her a job to get her back to Ludington.

“It’s home,” she says. “My daughter was going into middle school and I didn’t want her to have to go through metal detectors everyday.”

Paula knew that she and Ella finally had a place where they could establish some roots. She says that living in San Antonio, she felt very disconnected with the people there and she never really had an established circle, but in Ludington things were a lot different.

“I had no real sense of community in San Antonio,” she says. “Having a place where Ella was safe was very important. The bigger city was a disconnect for me and I needed that smaller town living.”

Paula’s transition back to Ludington has been a pretty smooth one, with opportunities that don’t seem to let up for her. She is currently working as a part of Lighthouse Realty, where she started as an assistant to Debby Stevenson, she worked part time as a computer teacher at Foster School and she has established the Lakeshore Youth Chorus, where she teaches vocal music to second through high school aged children at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.

“I saw the limitations on the music programs in the area,” she says. “Being able to sing every week is so important in choir and the chorus offers all the benefits of a choir. I really love doing it.”

There’s no mistake that Paula loves being back in Ludington doing what she is doing and being able to see a lot of old friends and make news ones as well. She said that when she couldn’t find a job, she made her own, which is definitely one of the perks of living in a small town.

“There are so many things here that bring me simple joy,” she says. “I didn’t have that in the big city. It’s a real piece of mind to let the dog out and hear the sounds of Lake Michigan. There are roots I have put here and this is the home Ella and I will remember. I have made lifelong friends here.”


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