Photo and story by Ja’Corey Mitchell

In the 8th grade at Bailey APAC Middle School, Cymone West had to audition for a school play, “Politics In The Land of Oz.” The night before, she memorized a monologue in 45 minutes. She acted it out five times, and the next day she auditioned in front of everyone in the theater.

Once West finished the audition, everybody was clapping because her performance was good. She got one of the lead roles.

“My passion is acting and also making people happy,“ West, now 16, says.

She was also an extra in the James Brown movie, “Get On Up,” which was shot in Mississippi. She acted along with about 13 other kids, and they had to go into a studio that looked like it was from the 1970s. They were in the studio with actor Chadwick Boseman and singer Jill Scott, and they all had to sing the song “I’m Black and I’m Proud” as the film crew recorded them from different angles for the movie.

Getting into the theater program when she was in middle school was critical for West. She also likes studying astrology and reading poets such as Edgar Allan Poe and Maya Angelou.

Before she joined the Mississippi Youth Media project this summer, West had left public schools and started attending St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Before she enrolled at the private school, she was often off task, staying in trouble, and her grades were lacking. At St. Andrew’s, her grades started improving. Her whole attitude changed. St. Andrew’s made Cymone West the person she is today, she says.

“It changed my life around,” West says. “When I switched from public school to private school, it help prepare me for college. The faculty at St. Andrews were very attentive and cared about me as an person. They noticed when i was having problems academically, socially and mentally. They tried their best to help me with my issues.”

The daughter of a Methodist minister, West has a little brother who is 8 years younger and a sister who is two years younger. “She is like my best friend,” she says. “I’m really close to everyone in my family.”

She grew up in Fort Valley, Ga., until she was 2, then she lived in Macon until age 8. She then moved to Shreveport, La. She lived in Jackson from age 10 to 16, and now she’s moving back to Georgia with her family.

West is good with relating to people. She also likes telling stories, as she does when she acts, and likes learning new things as she has done at YMP this summer.

“It has been challenging for me, but I appreciate the friends that I have made. I know that I will grow from this experience,” she says.

Ja’Corey Mitchell will be a 9th grader at Jim Hill High School this fall.