Isabel Harkins wants to serve up some social justice

Senior tennis player will study journalism at Northwestern University next fall
Tue, 04/27/2021 - 10:15am

As a senior, Isabel Harkins has learned plenty about playing tennis in the Maine spring’s windy weather. On April 23,  Harkins played Medomak Valley’s No. 1 player Elle Ashmore on one of those breezy days. And Ashmore’s game is well-suited for wind, as her soft, sliced strokes often frustrate her opponents trying to track down her shots. In the first set, Harkins lost 6-love. But the senior, with three seasons under her belt, adapted to the conditions and won the second set, 6-2. Harkins rallied by reminding herself an important lesson all tennis players must follow. “I just kept telling myself to move my feet. Her slice (shots) landed short, and I had a tough time getting to them,” Harkins said.

In the end, Ashmore countered Harkins’ adjustment and captured the third set 6-2. So far, Harkins is 1-1 in matches this spring. She started playing high school tennis as a freshman, and has played varsity three years. The one exception was her junior season which was cancelled by coronavirus. She also played soccer in her freshman and sophomore years. “As a freshman, I wanted to play a sport so I chose tennis. I played a little bit at the Y, but I’ve played more often after joining the team.” Harkins has a good serve and solid ground strokes. She is also a good athlete as was another member of her family. She is the great-granddaughter of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham. 

Next fall, Harkins will trade her racket for a computer keyboard. Harkins will study journalism with an eye toward bringing more visibility to civil rights reporting. Her favorite school subjects are writing and current events. Her passion for journalism was fueled by a recent guest lecturer who talked about the profession. “I realized journalism could combine my passion for writing and current events,” Harkins said. “I’ve been following the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement. I’m hoping to gain a platform advocating for social change. If the world was more equal between people, and there were more love and tolerance, the world would be a better place,” she said.

Harkins will attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois next fall. She won’t be the first member of her family to attend the Chicago-based Big 10 school. She will follow in her great-grandfather’s footsteps by attending Northwestern. Graham was a music major, and as a Wildcat played college football, baseball and basketball. He later played pro football for the Cleveland Browns. 

Harkins chose Northwestern based on its reputation as a top journalism school. She also has a desire to attend college out-of-state. “The school has a great reputation for journalism and the campus is right outside of Chicago,  and it’s beautiful,” she said. But for now, Harkins will continue hitting backhands, serves and forehands before trying to smash racism.