SWU graduate pays it forward
Growing up in Macon, Ga., Jermaine Harris’ high school classmates weren’t much of a source of encouragement, but coaches and others he came to know at Southern Wesleyan University made a positive impact on his life.
Now, Harris wants to encourage others, just as he received encouragement from coaches, professors and classmates.
When Harris isn’t working with the basketball team at Blacksburg High School in Blacksburg, Va., he’s coaching third- and fourth-graders in the city’s recreation program, as well as youth and young adults with special needs, preparing them for the Special Olympics. The reward for Harris, a 2009 recreation graduate, is seeing a smile on a youngster’s face.
“He’s full of energy, really spirited and really gets kids pumped up,” said Chris Stewart, athletic director at Blacksburg High School. “He’s really getting out there with them working hands on.”
“I love all kinds of kids and want to be a role model,” says Harris, who teaches swimming and basketball to youngsters with special needs. He coaches a regional swimming team and has competed himself for the past three years, winning butterfly, breaststroke and freestyle competitions.
He also plays on the basketball team for his church, Graceway 460, and is a Christian rapper.
Harris left Macon to stay with his godmother, Mary Davis, who lived in Iola, Kan. There he attended Allen County Community College. He remembered how Davis encouraged him to keep playing basketball and further his studies.
He then transferred to Northern State University in Oklahoma, where he played division 2 basketball before transferring to Southern Wesleyan.
“I got here and was kind of scared,” he recalled. But his basketball coach and others gave him the encouragement and push he needed. Another blessing in Jermaine’s life is his fiancé, Ashley Johnson, who is finishing her studies in veterinary school. Harris said that she encouraged him and helped him get through Southern Wesleyan while she was studying at nearby Clemson University.
While at SWU, Harris played center on the Warriors basketball team. He appreciated the encouragement he received from Coach Charles Wimphrie and the support of his professors who attended the games. Looking back, Harris says that he learned how to treat others with respect. He also feels his coach and classmates were like family.
At Blacksburg, Harris says God has continued to work in his life through Pastor Eddie Roberts and Assistant Pastor Jefferson Jones at Graceway 460, as well as the late Doug Day Sr., whom he coached with at Blacksburg High until he died of cancer. Harris continues working with Day’s son on the coaching staff.
As he encourages others, Harris gives this advice:
“Stay in books. Work hard every day. Put in the effort and believe in God. You go through ups and downs, but He will put you on a straight path,” Harris said. “I’m a living witness.”
“You meet people who become longtime friends. I’m glad God put me in a Christian environment. There aren’t too many schools that give you that and I feel that Southern Wesleyan is a high quality place to learn,” he said.
Harris’ goal is to coach a Division 1 team someday.
Southern Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered, student-focused learning community devoted to transforming lives by challenging students to be dedicated scholars and servant-leaders who impact the world for Christ.