WATCH VIDEO | ‘Trailblazer’: Larger Johnstown grad, acclaimed wrestler goals to change into civil rights lawyer | Information

Mariah Harris makes a name for herself as a champion wrestler with a view to the US Olympic team.

But the native Johnstowner sees her long-term future as an advocate of people who have no voice in society or the legal system.

Her dream since she was young was to become a civil rights attorney.

“I want to help people who cannot help themselves and people who are facing problems,” said Harris. “I want to help children who are in difficult times, families who are in difficult times, and adults who don’t know. I want to be the voice that you can really change with. “

After winning numerous tournaments as a high school wrestler in Greater Johnstown, Harris entered Campbellsville University in Kentucky, claiming a national title last February.

A month later, Breonna Taylor was killed by police who broke into her home in Louisville, Kentucky during a drug investigation.

Harris just finished her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

She said the proximity to that incident made a deep impression on the girl who wrote a research paper on civil rights as a senior in high school. She had studied the teachings of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights leaders – and used that inspiration to find her own way forward.

She is currently working on a master’s degree in business administration from Tiffin University in Ohio, helping coach the women’s wrestling team. Law school could be next.

“You have to fight with your voice,” said Harris. “I think that helped me grow. Everyone knows that my voice is wrestling, so I show who I am through wrestling – but also in my community to give back, to let someone of my race, of any gender, know that you have to keep fighting, no matter what. But you can’t fight the way they want to. It’s like you have to be upstairs. You revise them or you outsmart them. “

“Raise one another”

Wrestling analogies for school and life are a given for Harris, who is one of her coaches and mentors, the late Carlton Haselrig, a six-time NCAA Pitt-Johnstown champion who passed away last year, and the brothers Malcolm and Will Harris. Malcolm was district and regional champion in high school and competed in the 2018 US Open. Will, a former high school star, coaches the Greater Johnstown High School team.

Mariah Harris

Mariah Harris, Johnstown High School preeminent wrestler, poses with her trophies and wrestling photos of her favorite wrestlers in a 2015 file photo.

Will Harris said his sister’s motivation to study criminal justice and law stems from encounters some family members have had with the legal system.

Will shared his own legal entanglements, which included leaving school at St. Francis University, where he was a member of the football team, after being accused of conspiracy to manufacture and supply drugs for living in a house in who had a relative suspected of being a drug dealer.

On the advice of his attorney, Will said he advocated “no competition” – which he did not fully understand did not mean “not guilty” – and which left a mark.

“I’m still fighting this problem to this day,” he said. “It ended my football career at St. Francis and forced me out of school. It took me home, tried to figure out life and work with these children. “

In addition to Malcolm and Mariah, Will Harris has two older and two younger sisters. Mariah is the second youngest in the family.

Will has his own wrestling analogy that he offers to his siblings and members of his Trojan horse program.

“I’ve been blessed to have some people on my side – my sisters, my brother, my wrestling family,” he said. “And from experience I tell them: ‘You fell 12-0, and what are you going to do? Are you going to turn around and get stuck or are you going to fight back? ‘””

“She had a plan”

In a way, the roles of Mariah and her big brother have turned, he said. Now she is often the one who provides inspiration and instruction on how to achieve goals.

“She’s one of the few people who, as a little kid, wrote and sticked to their entire plan and followed it up,” Will said. “She’s been talking about becoming a lawyer, even a judge, since she was 7 or 8 years old. She had a plan and went after it.

“Our family had some problems with the law. She really wants to work with people who don’t have the resources to fight cases or be represented. “

Mariah Harris, Morgan Decker

Mariah Harris (blue) of Pennsylvania tries to escape Morgan Decker of Illinois during a girls exhibition game at the Border Brawl Mason-Dixon Wrestling Classic on Sunday March 20, 2016. Harris won 8-3.

Wrestling, said Will Harris, is a vehicle for career opportunities.

“Given the communities we represent, many of these children couldn’t afford to go to college or law school,” he said. “I told her, ‘Wrestling is going to be a big part of it.’ My old wrestling coach, Allen Andrews, always told me that sport can be a vehicle. Use it to get where you want to go. She did. “

Mariah has become one of the faces of the growing sport of wrestling for women.

“She really is a trailblazer,” said Will. “It is no wonder why there are so many girls in this field who are into wrestling. The sport in Pennsylvania is growing and she is the leader. “

Mariah Harris said, “People always tell me, ‘You don’t know how tall you are. ‘It’s just wrestling … and I’ve been doing it since third grade. It’s just a lifestyle. Seeing other girls come up to me and say I inspire them means so much because when I was alone I didn’t really have someone to look up and up next to to create my guides and role models. If I now take on this responsibility for the younger women, I push even more. When I train on my own I lift and run and train, it drives me because I know so many girls look up to me. “

Greater Johnstown graduate wins national title, moment at the Olympic Training Center

Mariah Harris, a Greater Johnstown graduate, poses with her award after winning the Body Bar Women’s National Championship on Sunday.

And they could just see them compete on the biggest stage in sport.

The U.S. Olympic Trials are expected to take place in Penn State in April. The summer games, delayed by a year, would take place in Japan if the COVID-19 pandemic allowed competition.

“I just have to prepare and try to be ready whenever the time comes,” said Mariah. “The pandemic is difficult for us all. Right now I’m just trying to take it day in and day out and be honest with the flow. ”

“You made a way”

In Johnstown, Harris volunteers to mentor young girls, help them with their homework, and give advice.

“I just talk to them, try to search their brains, see how school is going, and make sure they’re okay because some people don’t have anyone,” she said. “… It takes a person to completely change your life. Some children don’t necessarily have the best domestic situations or even the best food on the table. … They are little things that some people take for granted that children don’t have. “

She remembered being in fifth grade when Barack Obama became the nation’s first black president and had conversations with teachers, classmates, and her mother about the importance of that moment.

Now the country has its first wife as Vice President – Kamala Harris, whose family is from India.

“We had the first African American president … and now this one,” said Mariah Harris. “Our ancestors, my late grandfather – he didn’t see that. But I know he’s really happy. People who couldn’t live through that day look down and see, wow, we’re making a change. But if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here. They made a way. And now we have to find a way for our future. “

Mariah Harris

Campbellsville wrestler Mariah Harris (right) won the 170-pound WCWA National Championship on Saturday, February 8, 2020 in Marietta, Ga.

She added, “A hundred years ago, African Americans like me couldn’t, women couldn’t. … I want women to know that you can do anything you want. … Getting the chance to study and live my dreams is what I want to give back to other women in order to live their dreams. We can all do it no matter what someone says. ”

‘Just go on’

Your ultimate dream? She runs her own law firm and gym – for “people like me,” she said.

“Just keep going – no matter what your race, your gender,” said Mariah. “It doesn’t matter who you are, go ahead and never give up. You have to keep going and never stop fighting. There are people who think they can’t, that they don’t have the support. We can all do it. You just need someone to push you and I want to be that person. “

Will Harris said nothing that Mariah wants to say and nothing that accomplishes surprises him.

“I speak to her and ask her to peel the onion and look at the layers in her life,” he said. “There are so many directions in which it can go. She surprises me every day. She calls me superman. But she is a super woman. She does it. “

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