Barnes has a Bachelor's in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Master's in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University. Barnes has worked primarily in the field of education with a focus on supporting underrepresented students in grade school and in their collegiate careers. Her passion for education derived from their hope to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Barnes has also worked with students labeled as "juvenile delinquents" and incarcerated adults. Through advocacy and education, Barnes hopes to show individuals how to leverage their unique lived experiences.