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Today is May 9, 2021

Making Harvard history and his co-op proud

By Steven Ward

Making Harvard history and his co-op proud

Mississippian Noah Harris recently made history when he became the first Black man elected by students to the office of student body president of Harvard University.

After the news broke, Noah was fielding interview requests from CNN, MSNBC, Good Morning America and USA Today. Not just a product of Mississippi, Harris, 20, grew up in and around the electric cooperative family of his home state.

Harris’ father, Anthony Harris, is the district manager of the Hattiesburg office of the Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association. Anthony, 52, has worked at the co-op for 27 years.

“I’ve spent my entire life at Pearl River Valley,” Noah said recently in a phone call from his apartment in Boston.

“The thing about electric cooperatives is, it’s a big family. Growing up around a co-op taught me about service to others. Having an impact on people, even when it’s not convenient,” Noah said.

Noah said he remembers when there were big outages due to weather disasters, how he was expected to go out and help neighbors with the cleanup and aftermath.

“It (co-ops) definitely played a large role in who I am and what I want to do,” Noah said.

Noah’s father said his son is a leader who wants to come back to Mississippi to make a difference in his home state.

“Noah knows Mississippi is a great state and he loves it. He’s passionate about it,” Anthony said.

Noah is a junior at Harvard studying political science, a major known as Government at the Ivy League institution. Before he was elected student body president in November, Noah cochaired the Undergraduate Council’s Black Caucus and served as the body’s treasurer.

Noah and his vice president, Jenny Gan of Cleveland, Ohio, were elected Nov. 12 and were sworn in Dec. 6.

Noah’s road to Harvard was paved with hard work, determination and a strong desire to succeed.

Noah graduated from Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg in 2018 where he played baseball and basketball, played violin and piano, and served as an Eagle Scout.

“I remember Noah getting home from an out of town baseball game at 1 a.m. and then breaking out his calculus homework he had to do,” Anthony said.

Noah also served as an intern for Mississippi U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and authored and published a children’s book, “Successville” about setting and reaching goals.

Noah said he wants to become an attorney so he can help people who need it most.

The historic nature of his election is not lost on Noah.

“I realize this is a big deal and I know and appreciate what it means. But I believe we were elected because of our platform, our vision and our campaign,” Noah said.

Anthony said he, Noah’s mother Frankie and Noah’s 14-year-old sister, Peyton Ashley are all very proud of Noah.

“Noah is a humble young man. He has the right attitude,” Anthony said.

Part of that attitude comes from the electric co-op.

“Growing up, he was always at the office with me. Also, Noah knows that Pearl River Valley is committed to family. Family comes first,” Anthony said. “Pearl River Valley allowed me to be flexible for my family. I could help coach Noah when he was young.”

Anthony said, with Noah, “the sky is the limit.”

“He is such a blessing.”

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