Kayli Taylor
Category: 2020 College Winner

Kayli Taylor

Arkansas State University

Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, Kobe Bryant, Oprah Winfrey, and Harriet Tubman are a few of the amazing men and women we may think of when we are asked to name an African American who has been inspirational in our lives. Over the years, these are people who have contributed greatly through their leadership to make a positive impact on how we all live within our societies today. Although their tremendous contributions will not go unrecognized, there is someone special to me, who has positively impacted my personal growth, that I think of when asked: “What African American has truly inspired you?”. This extraordinary individual is Jeremiah Harris.

Jeremiah Harris, also known as Jerry, is featured on the documentary series ‘Cheer’. The documentary covers day to day lives of students on the cheer squad at Navarro Community College in Corsicana, Texas. Jerry stands out to me from the rest of his teammates due to his optimism and determination to work hard for what he wants on and off the cheerleading mat. He demonstrates these characteristics by always having a smile on his face and uplifting other people no matter the situation. His positive attitude and personality are infectious to his teammates and viewers. Having a passion for dance and being part of a competitive dance team for 16 years, I can truly relate to Jerry’s experience and challenges.

When asked by the producers about his past, Jerry was very open to tell the audience about his mother. Being a single mother, she tried her best to provide Jerry with a healthy environment to grow as a person. Even though she was struggling in her fight against cancer, she did everything in her power to keep him in cheerleading because she knew that was his talent and passion. Jerry goes on to explain that his mother lost her battle against cancer when he was in high school but even with that unfortunate event, he still remains positive every day and states everything he does is to make her proud. When his team won the cheer championship in 2018, he dedicated the success to his mother. I can also relate to having a single mother, that provides as best she can.

Growing up, Jerry was bullied for being “different”. Despite the name-calling, hateful comments, and abuse, he still continues to excel in the sport through dedication and passion. He has pushed himself every day to prove that he is strong enough to overcome adversity and be successful.

Jeremiah Harris may not be the first person you think of when asked about an inspirational African American but what I admire about Jeremiah is his vibrant personality and his genuine compassion for others. He once said, “even though I might have had a rough day, I know others look to me to brighten theirs.” Jerry’s consistent actions influence me to achieve my goals, develop a passion for success and strive to be at my very best in everything I do.