By Joshua M Hicks
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it took a toll on student athletes, especially on collegiate athletes whose eligibility has been affected. But what if a student athlete’s collegiate debut is suspended and potentially delayed if the season gets cancelled? That is Jahari Lee’s fear, but he remains positive that better days are coming.
As a 17-year-old graduating senior from Westinghouse College Prep, Lee was destined to experience prom as well as a formal graduation. It was where the dream of having his family present to see him walk across the stage and receive his diploma can become a reality, a dream he’s had since he was a freshman. Unfortunately, the pandemic altered his ideal plans and forced him to not experience the things a graduating senior would want. His school prom got cancelled, he received his graduation diploma and gear in a box via mail and even after the reception of his diploma, he is still finishing up the final portion of his classes through e-learning.
Aside from adjusting to the end of his high school career, he is also handling friends that have lost multiple family members due to COVID-19, as well as dealing with his mother, who is working from home, hasn’t been in an office in over two months and is working in a company that had to relieve 80 percent of their employees from duty. These circumstances hurt Lee, but one of the ways Lee has been able to cope with his current situation is through art. He is still finishing his art/photography class, and he uses art to express how he feels.
“We are going through hard times right now,” Lee said. “Some people get anxiety sitting around in the house all day and there is protesting for George Floyd all throughout the neighborhoods and the city so things get overwhelming. Sometimes when I do my work, I like to express myself through the work of art.”
Lee secured his future with a football scholarship to play Left Tackle (LT) and Defensive Tackle (DT) at Millikin University, majoring in Criminal Justice and minoring in Creative Writing. In the future, he wants to help change the narrative of Black representation within law enforcement, with ideally using creative writing to help create storylines and scripts for video games. However, at this time, he is scheduled to be preparing to head to campus to train for the season. With the unknown circulating around the NCAA’s decision for fall sports seasons and limited gym space to train, Lee made sure to stay in constant communication with his team via Twitter and GroupMe, while finding different ways to accomplish his goals of staying in shape through conditioning.
Right now, he conditions on the treadmill as well as does some outside cardio with his friend, who is currently waiting to start his football season at Georgetown.
Lee encourages his peers to use this time to strive to achieve the goals they want to pursue and accomplish, and demonstrates through his work ethic his confidence of a football season taking place this year. But even if it doesn’t, he isn’t worried about his eligibility, and believes the pandemic will actually enhance his collegiate opportunities.
“I think it is going to enhance [my eligibility],” Lee said. “Even though the season is later on, I’ve seen how [The NCAA] is working on it and how it might get better. I think the season along with my eligibility and academics are going to have a better outcome. We are taking precautions.”
LaSheba Sturkey, 44, is Lee’s mother. She has expressed her strong support of her son during these unfortunate circumstances.
“[Jahari] has been really strong and supportive during the pandemic,” Sturkey said. “It’s raised a lot of questions and made us have serious conversations. I’m honored to have a young man that’s open to learning about the world and to be able to teach him.”