By Kev Moyé
For LEGACY Inc.
Though she has yet to graduate from high school, Naqari Harris has embraced the importance of hard work, being mentally tough, and showcasing benevolence for individuals of all backgrounds.
Those aforementioned intangibles have factored greatly in helping the daughter of Yusef and Tamika Harris attain success in the realms of academia and athletics.
“I think she’s capable of changing lives. She’s a special person. She really cares about people,” Mr. Harris said. “She goes out of her way to do things for people. I look for her to make positive changes in the world.”
Harris’ caring modus operandi has been on full display as her father copes with a kidney and pancreatic illness. Naturally, the situation has been tough on the entire family. But, Mr. Harris has gained strength from observing the maturity of Naqari – and her younger sister Miyala – throughout this ordeal.
“I made a commitment to my family that I was going to do everything possible to stick around to make sure I see both of my daughters graduate from high school. I’ve also made some lifestyle changes,” he said. “I just told my daughters I was going to do everything I can to be around to see them become successful. That helped them a lot to deal with this situation.”
Harris and her sister were eager to learn about their father’s ailment and how they could be of assistance to him.
“They asked a bunch of questions. They didn’t get down. They kept a positive attitude,” Mr. Harris stated. “They told me that they were going to do everything they could to help me. That was of great benefit to me. It really picked my spirits up.”
Harris acknowledged that her dad’s will to survive has served as an unlimited source of inspiration.
“It inspires me a lot. It shows me that I can’t take things for granted” she said. “It makes me dig deep and tell myself that I have to do more than what I’m doing.”
Harris now works out with her father on a regular basis and has also helped him develop healthy eating habits. Servings of protein shakes, salad, chicken, and specific fruits are now commonplace for Mr. Harris. For the most part, Harris’ effort to assist in the improvement of her dad’s health is a byproduct of maintaining a proper perspective.
“When he first told me, at first it didn’t set in. When I thought about it … I was kind of sad that this was happening to my dad,” she admitted. “But, at the same time, I realized that everything happens for a reason. I just took it in and tried to accept it as much as I could.”
How does Harris remain focused on school and athletics knowing that her father is experiencing health issues?
“The faster I get things done and the better I do things, the quicker I’ll have the chance to see him each day,” she answered. “The quicker we can work toward getting him healthy, the better off we’ll be. It has pushed me to just be a better overall person.”
A senior at Leavenworth High School, Harris currently boasts a grade point average of 3.857. She’s a member of Leavenworth’s girls basketball team, the National Honor Society, LHS Mentoring, LHS Ambassadors, and is taking several college level courses. Harris also referenced that discipline and savvy time management are among the main reasons why she’s able to handle the various school-related activities.
“I have a set plan. The college work is hard. Therefore, I do the easiest work first,” she said. “I’ll then get the college work and dissect it. If I have issues, I try to get help from whoever I can.”
Being mentally tough and properly addressing her primary duties have been vital to Harris’ academic accomplishments.
“She’s really focused. She didn’t want to take the easy route because it’s her senior year,” Mr. Harris stated. “She wanted to push herself and gain credit so she could have nine college credits before she gets to a college campus.
“Anytime I go to a parent-teacher conference, I receive high praise about her as a person and how hard she works to make sure her work is turned in. She really cares about the school portion of her life. My wife and I, we’ve always told her that God comes first, school, and then athletics.”
In regard to sports, Harris has enjoyed a nice basketball career.
She recently helped the Leavenworth Lady Pioneers claim their second consecutive Kansas Class 5A state crown.
Harris, at 5-8, has the ability to play as a small forward or at shooting guard. A multifaceted player, Harris knows how to handle herself in close proximity to the basket as she can score, rebound, and provide the occasional assist.
“My job for the team was to get to the basket offensively, and to also play good defense,” she stated. “Normally, I was assigned to shut down the post, or the other team’s best shooter. But for the most part, on defense I defended the post.”
Over the years, Harris has cultivated her skill-set by working with Mr. Harris, playing AAU basketball, and receiving in-depth training from former University of Nebraska basketball player, Marcus Walker.
“My dad helps me push myself. If I wasn’t playing basketball, or working out, I was watching it with him and we’re analyzing the games. We’re pretty dedicated,” she said. “With AAU, it challenged me to move outside my box because I’m playing against people who are way taller than me, way faster than me, and way better than me. So it pushed me to work even harder. With Marcus, he also pushes me past my comfort zone. I believe because he forced me to go beyond what I’m accustomed to doing, it helped me build more confidence in myself. Marcus has inspired me to keep doing everything I’m supposed to do but to also have fun.”
As of now Harris, who’s a member of New Day Apostolic Church, desires to potentially play basketball for Coffeyville Community College. Nonetheless, it’s not set in stone that Harris will attend the Southeast Kansas institution. The reason being is she has also received interest from Benedictine University, Hampton University, Ottawa University, Highland Community College, Hutchinson Community College, and Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Nevertheless, especially if she attends a junior college, Harris wants the opportunity to complete several core classes, fine-tune her skills as a basketball player, and to remain close to home with Mr. Harris’ surgery and subsequent recovery process forthcoming.
But, her concern for the well-being of others is not exclusive to members of the Harris family. The Basehor, Kansas native feels it’s her civic duty to be a positive, motivational presence for whomever she interacts with.
“We have kids who are coming up that don’t know what they should be doing, or how to accomplish their goal. But I love helping anybody I can,” Harris said. “Most of the time it’s the kids that you have to get to quickly because they’re our future and we have to make sure they mature correctly. But, I’m always willing to help out. Any manner that I can help people and make a difference in the world … that’s what I want to do.”
Fittingly, Harris wanting to serve others has impacted her career goals. “I’d like to be an occupational therapist or enter sports management,” she said. “I definitely want to stay around sports, but I want to be around the business side of it and that’s the reason for management. If I were to do occupational therapy, that would go along the lines of helping athletes rehabilitate and get back to playing.” By no means did Harris’ fancy for helping others occur by mere happenstance.
“She’s always been a special kid. She’s always had a great attitude toward people. I believe that really contributes to her success,” Mr. Harris stated. “I’ve always tried to involve my children with the things I participate in that’s related to community service.”