BTW Magnet High School graduate returns to alma mater to teach theater

Jesmelia Williams is back home teaching the next generation at BTW Magnet High School.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 4:26 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2023 at 8:05 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery gave Jesmelia Williams the education she needed to pursue a career in acting. She said she carried all the things she learned in those classrooms with her all over the world.

“The BTW motto is ‘excellence in all things’ and I truly believe that stayed with me. Excellence in academics, excellence in arts. I remember going off to college and I knew things about theater and about the business that I learned in high school,” she said.

Williams graduated from BTW in 2016. From there, she went to college and started working professionally as an actress.

“I was able to travel all around the world, and I was working at a theater company in St. Louis when Dr. Starks reached out to me,” she said.

Quesha Starks was the principal at BTW when Williams was a student and she’s still leading the way for BTW today. Starks called Williams three years ago and asked if she would be interested in teaching theater to the next generation of graduates. Williams said she knew it was time to come back home.

“I never thought I’d be back this soon but I do believe in learn, do, teach,” Williams said. “I learned a lot here at BTW and in college, I was able to work professionally and travel, and now it’s my time to teach and really give back.”

She says she has a special connection to her students at BTW because she knows exactly what it’s like to be a student there and she knows what it takes to make it on stage. And she’s excited to work with her students on a new stage.

In 2018, a fire destroyed the campus in downtown Montgomery on Union Street. After years of rebuilding, at a new location on Bell Road, in August 2023, the new BTW officially opened. The new school includes brand-new studios, classrooms, and a theater for the hundreds of magnet school students.

“I’m excited get into this space and make good use of it. They ask me all the time, ‘Miss Williams, what was it like she when you were here?’ It’s fun to be able to relate to them on that level,” she said.

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