From Showtime at the Apollo to West Charlotte High School, Timisha Barnes-Jones ’92 inspires change through education and the arts.

“Believe in yourself. You’re better than you think.”

This mindset drives Timisha Barnes-Jones ’92 on a daily basis. This mindset is also the reason she inspires so many students as the principal at West Charlotte High School.

When Barnes-Jones showed an interest in attending Davidson, a high school English teacher told her she would never get in. After a year at N.C. Central University, she transferred to Davidson and pursued her passion for music and vocal performance.

After receiving a full scholarship to attend the University of Cincinnati for graduate school, Barnes-Jones moved to Bermuda to give a music career a shot–singing for tourists, recording music for commercials and singing in various clubs.

“While living in Bermuda, I traveled to New York where I won Showtime at the Apollo three times,” she said. “Once I moved back to the U.S., I started teaching voice lessons. That’s when I fell in love with education.”

Barnes-Jones became co-principal at West Charlotte High School in 2013 and was named sole principal two years later.

Since her appointment, the Title I school’s graduation rate has grown from 54 percent to 88 percent and has been named a school of High Growth.

Her first love of the arts has also made a significant difference for the culture of the school.

“You have to figure out what makes things click,” she said. “I’ve brought the arts to West Charlotte in a way that is improving school culture and gives students something to truly care about and a platform to express themselves. When students are struggling academically, we put systems of support in place to help scaffold the instruction, and when they are struggling because they aren’t coming to school in the first place, we have to step back and figure out how to make it a place they want to be.”

Under Barnes-Jones’ leadership, West Charlotte has grown arts programming by adding chorus, more visual arts offerings and more band classes, and a theater program is added for the upcoming school year. These programs also provide personal inspiration for the leader who truly lives out her work.

“When I can’t be found, there’s a good chance I’m in the chorus room or sitting talking or singing with students,” she said. “It keeps me going.”

Barnes-Jones is a hands-on principal who does not take “no” for an answer. She meets students where they are, encouraging them in the hallways, on Instagram and everywhere in between.

“Every student needs a champion,” she said. “If it’s good for the students, the answer has to be ‘yes;’ we just have to figure out how to make it happen.”

Many kids arrive at school with trauma, financial struggles and uninvolved families, and Barnes-Jones says “compassion fatigue” is a very real thing. But as emotionally and mentally exhausted as some days leave her, it’s exactly where she’s meant to be.

“There are days I cry, but I would never say the hard work isn’t worth it. Being a champion for these kids is my jam.”

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