Sharp's Journey from Adversity to Administration

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Story by Lexie Salamone and Emily White

Since 2011, students and staff at West have been acquainted with their principal, Dr. David Sharp. However, not many know the background of this one-of-a-kind administrator.

Sharp was born and raised in south Chicago where his dad was a police officer. When he was in middle school, his parents got a divorce, so he moved to Northeast Kansas City, attending William Chrisman High School.

“I spent the summers in Chicago. I had a strong sense of family, but school wasn’t always a priority because no one in my family had graduated from high school. It was one of those things that I had to work hard in everything I did. I learned a lot of lessons that way,” Sharp said.

Sharp was not very interested in school since it became difficult to him. He did not take a weighted class until his junior year of high school.

“The econ professor actually tried to get me out of the class the first week because he didn’t think my grades were high enough, but then I got a 105 out of 107 on the first exam,” said Sharp.

Despite the many challenges at home and in school, Sharp was a successful student, but he did not do it alone.

“I had an unwavering support from the teachers I had along the way. I was that kid that wasn’t supposed to go to college, like that movie, ‘Rudy.’ My high school guidance counselor stood out to me and told me not all people were cut out for college. I didn’t really fit the pedigree,” said Sharp.

Sharp, having struggled through high school, initially decided to go into the military.

“I was on the other side of the earth and I said, ‘If I survive this, when I go back I am going to do something right. I am going to go to college,’” said Sharp. “I got my acceptance letter to UCM while I was in the military. I was training for Desert Storm in 1990, and I was out in the middle of nowhere. We hadn’t had any communication for weeks, and I got this letter from Central Missouri.”

It was because of his unwavering support that Sharp had been given that pushed him to want to be a teacher, and eventually a principal.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher, because there was a long lineage of teachers that helped me through school, and I was one of those at-risk kids. Both my brothers were very smart, but they were considered at-risk too. There were a lot of teachers that helped out along the way,” said Sharp. “If someone would have told me I would be a principal when I was younger, I would have laughed. I was going to go into the family business, because I came from a lot of headstrong people, and so I was going to be a Chicago cop, no question.”

Having been an at-risk student, Sharp knew he wanted to help more kids like him.

“I ran away from home in high school for like two weeks. I’ve lived on the streets for like two weeks, so I know. I know the toughness that an alcoholic dad and step-dad goes. I just wanted to help kids through situations every day. So it was teaching that I went into, but I decided I wanted to make a bigger difference, by being a principal. I thought I made a great impact as a teacher, but I wanted to make an even larger one as a principal, and I’ve been doing that for 16 years,” said Sharp.

One of the many students that has experienced the help of Sharp is Senior Melvin White.

“He talked to me when no one else would and stuff like that, and he’s always there when you need him, and he changed my view on certain people and certain things. Whenever I need something, he’s there and I know that I can count on him. I’ve never counted on someone as much as I do him, so in that stance, he changed my life,” said White.

White thinks that he has a good head on his shoulders due to the influence of Sharp.

White is not the only student that has benefitted from Sharp’s influence. He has, in fact, aided many other students throughout their high school career.

“He has a really good open door policy. He is always open to not just staff, but students as well. He is very approachable. I think everyone really appreciates that,” said Secretary Angie Zuydendorp.

Aside from helping the student body at West, Sharp has been able to aide West accomplish many other things along the way.

“At West, we’ve developed into one of the best school in the countries. We’ve been a US News World Report Silver medalist. We were in the top ten for missouri schools. We’ve been a blue ribbon. We are 2nd in Kansas City, Missouri in the ACT,” says Sharp.

Despite the many impressive accomplishments Sharp has seen, his biggest accomplishment is still that of others.

“The biggest thing for me though is to see the 4 years of seniors I have had here, and being able to watch them go out into the world and come back and say how well they are doing in college because of the education they have had here,” said Sharp. “We have had kids come from tough situations and tough backgrounds go out and be successful because of someone of something here that had an impact on them.”

From Independence to Lee’s Summit, Sharp has been able to make a lasting impact on those whom he has helped through their high school years and careers.

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