Philadelphia high school's dereliction of duty leaves standout student-athlete on the sidelines

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As hundreds of University of Hartford students prepare to move their belongings into the residence halls and begin classes next week, Strawberry Mansion’s Nadirah McRae will not be one of them.

Strawberry Mansion High School administrators, School District of Philadelphia employees, failed to submit the standout student-athlete’s official transcripts to the Connecticut-based university and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which regulates collegiate athletics and athletes.

“It’s a pretty sad day to say the least. It’s challenging to articulate and clearly explain to a young lady, like Nadirah, that the dysfunctional and damaging school system has failed her,” said Jazmine A. Smith.

Smith served as McRae’s lacrosse and field hockey coach before she was informed, in June, that her contract was not being renewed.

“She has worked extremely hard to overcome challenges that are truly traumatic and managed to develop her skills on and off the athletic fields," said Smith.

"Her goal, and the next progression in her journey, was to attend a university as a student-athlete. Coach Meg stepped up on behalf of the University of Hartford, but Nadirah was failed by the powers that be within Strawberry Mansion High School and those we’ve reached out to, to advocate on behalf of her, as well as her teammates.”

McRae is one of 15 Strawberry Mansion students Smith coached and worked with, assisting them and their families to secure enrollment at an array of colleges and universities.

Through McRae’s participation in Smith’s Eyekonz Filed Hockey and Lacrosse League, the North Philly native was introduced to Meg Decker, the University of Hartford’s head women’s lacrosse coach.

“I hated having to tell her that she won’t be going to school tomorrow as she planned to do,” Smith said.

“Pending final paperwork” including McRae’s official transcripts from high school, Decker offered McRae a scholarship. For months McRae and Smith tried in vain to get the transcripts to the appropriate institutions in the required time.

“This entire process started because Nadirah is truly someone special,” said Decker, who hoped to have her “join our team since I first learned of her.”

Explaining that over a period of weeks she reached out and played “phone tag” with McRae’s counselor, Melissa Schafer, as of yesterday the “NCAA Eligibility Center is not showing the documents needed for Nadirah,” Decker said.

“It’s just a shame,” said Smith.

“We, as educators, coaches, teachers and advocates, have to be professionally honest and operate with integrity. If we preach accountability to our youth and don’t apply that train of thought as professionals or activate and put that theory into practice, we are failing our kids. In this case, Strawberry Mansion High School, the counselor and others sitting on the sideline fully aware of the situation, they all have failed Nadirah,” said Smith.

“The system has failed her miserably, but she will persevere.”

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