Jessi Harmon, 18, a Tribal member from Flagstaff, Ariz., has plenty of reasons to smile as she is headed to Virginia Military Institute. (Courtesy photo)

As Jessi Harmon shifts from being a high school student to a college student, she’s carried two primary goals: To attend military college – following in the footsteps of her older brothers – and to play soccer.

Those goals have come to fruition as the daughter of Donna and Edward Harmon will attend Virginia Military Institute on a four-year U.S. Marine Corps scholarship and play for the school’s NCAA Division I women’s soccer team.

Jessi, 18, a Seminole from Flagstaff, Ariz., was offered a spot on the team on the same day she attended a one-day soccer camp at VMI in February. She officially signed in April.

“I was ecstatic, elated. It’s something I really wanted. Soccer has always been my favorite sport,” said Harmon, who is plenty familiar with VMI and its soccer teams. Her brother Levi was a member of the VMI men’s soccer team for three years and will graduate May 16. One week later another sibling, Eli, will graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

Jessi said her brothers have played important roles in her life.

“Incredibly so, both as mentors and friends. They’ve really guided me through the things I needed to achieve my goals,” she said.

VMI soccer coach Chris Bergmann described Jessi as “an outstanding athlete.”

“She has a great understanding of the game and has tremendous communication skills,” Bergmann said. “She can play as a central defender or in the midfield. Jessi has excellent vision and a tremendous fight on the field. She has a team-first mentality that is contagious to those around her. She also has great leadership skills both on and off the field.”

Jessi plans to major in international studies and modern language with an emphasis on Arabic and French. She’ll also join the Marines’ ROTC at school. After she graduates from VMI, she’ll enter the Marines as a 2nd lieutenant.

Donna Harmon, who grew up on the Brighton Reservation as Donna Bratcher, said she’s proud of her daughter for working hard to gain admission into VMI, earn the scholarship and secure a spot on the soccer team.

VMI was established in 1839. Male cadets comprise 90 percent of the current 1,700 enrollment. Females were first allowed to enroll in 1997.

“She’s blazing a trail as one of the few female students there,” Donna said.

But before Jessi packs and heads to the east coast, she will graduate from Flagstaff High School in northern Arizona on June 1. There’s a good reason why she was named most athletic in her class.

She played four years on the soccer team, which went undefeated in the regular season this year before losing its only game in the state final. Her other athletic endeavors in high school included being a member of the archery, cross country and mountain biking teams. And last fall, she joined the varsity football team.

“I love football. I love watching football,” she said. “I said, ‘Why can’t I play football?’”

So she did.

Jessi was a 5-foot-5, 120-pound defensive back and wide receiver and she used her soccer skills to be one of the team’s kickers. Soccer, her primary sport, certainly contains plenty of physical play, but nowhere near the amount of contact that ensues on every play in football.

“I think (my mom) was nervous. She closed her eyes when I got close to anyone, but she was very supportive,” Jessi said.

Jessi was the only girl on the team. She picked up some leadership experience by serving as a captain in one game and she also had a memorable night by kicking two extra points in a victory against Cortez High School in September.

“Her teammates were so happy for her. They ran out there and picked her up,” Donna said.

Jessi said she’s glad she gave football a shot and being a member of the team improved her teamwork skills that should help as she delves into academics, ROTC and athletics at VMI.

 

“It was fantastic. It was like having 20 [or more] older brothers. They had my back,” she said.

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