A year or so after enrolling her son at Cameron Middle School in Nashville, Memphian Jenifer Harris didn’t like what she was hearing surrounding the education of her son, JeTarii Donald.
“Cameron Middle was on the No Child Left Behind failing list for five years straight,” Harris told MemphiSport during a telephone recent interview from Nashville. “And I just made up in my mind that he wasn’t going. So I did my research on the school.”
Among Harris’ options was to relocate her son to Memphis, where he could enroll in a college preparatory institution and reside in the same city with his father, former Tennessee-Martin football standout Katarri Donald, who coaches football at Kirby High.
But after consulting with several individuals who were knowledgeable able the private school sector, Harris was advised to consider enrolling her son at Nashville’s Montgomery Bell Academy. For Donald, it turned out to be the best move for a student athlete who not has proven to be efficient in the classroom, but one who was falling in the footsteps of his father.
Donald, 18, is currently the starting running back at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, in large part because of his memorable stint at Montgomery Bell Academy. One moment, JeTarri Donald admittedly wasn’t sold on enrolling at a private institution. Years later, when it seemed his mother wouldn’t have the means to pay for him to continue attending the school, he pleaded with her to find a way to ensure he remains a student at MBA.
Much to his delight, she did just that.
Harris eventually chose to put her 2,300-square feet, two-story, four-bedroom home up for sale as well her luxury vehicle to raise the necessary funds to pay for her son’s tuition to MBA.
“The way we were raised, mama and daddy said your education comes first,” said Harris, explaining why her reasoning for making such investments in her son’s education. “And he knows that. And with him running down the field, he needs to get that math degree. Because what if he messes his ACL up?”
JeTarri Donald had gone to great lengths to show how appreciative he was for the sacrifices his mother made on his behalf. For starters, he graduated from MBA with a cumulative grade point average of 3.9. As if that wasn’t enough, he was just as productive on the field for MBA when he amassed over 1,100 yards rushing his senior campaign.
His stellar display for MBA ultimately resulted in the 5-foot-8, 172-pound rusher earning a full-ride scholarship to Mercer, where he essentially picked up where he left off as a prep standout.
JeTarri Donald, who appeared in each of Mercer’s 12 games this past season, was installed as a starter for the remaining eight games during which the Bears complied a 7-1 mark. He didn’t appoint, having finished the year as the team’s second-leading rusher with 909 yards on 149 carries and scored seven touchdowns, which also was second only to Mercer freshman quarterback John Russ (1,040 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns).
Among the reasons for his success as a newcomer for a Bears team that finished with a 10-2 mark?
“Me personally, I just feel I gave it everything I had and that’s how I ended up with a starting job,” JeTarri Donald said. “We had a good offensive line. We had good blocking and that’s where it all starts, with my offensive line. Without them, I wouldn’t have been as successful.”
Of course, the rave reviews JeTarri Donald garnered as one of Mercer’s most efficient newcomers wouldn’t have been possible if not for the sacrifices his mother made years ago, something her son still relishes to this day.
“You know, that was very inspiring to know that my mom was there for me wholeheartedly,” JeTarri Donald said. “To downsize her house and car was shocking and for me to see her do that, I told her I appreciate her believing in me. I don’t want to let my mother down.”
So far, so good.