Dante Jamal Harris graduated from Columbus High School in 2014 with honors despite the fact that he came from a home situation where he had been abandoned by his parents. Essentially homeless his senior year of high school, Harris hid his plight from his classmates and those at the school.
Amber Massey figured out something was not right when she began to follow the Columbus High basketball because she had a nephew on the team. She offered Harris a ride home one day and he told her to drop him off at a south Columbus fast-food restaurant.
"I figured out he was homeless and had been kicked out of the house by his mom," Massey said.
Massey, and her husband, Brookstone Coach Vince Massey, then stepped in and began to help Harris get through his senior year. Now, she is helping him fight another battle.
Harris took an inappropriate photo of one his military instructors at the University of North Georgia. He faces suspension from the university in a hearing Wednesday afternoon. He also faces criminal charges.
Harris' plight was first reported by ajc.com on Tuesday. Massey has been seeking support on her Facebook page since Saturday.
Massey considers Harris her "son" and has been his advocate since early 2014 when he was struggling to finish his senior year at Columbus High.
Massey also began looking for a way to get Harris into college. She discovered a $70,000 Georgia National Guard scholarship to the University of North Georgia that paid for everything,
All that could end this week because of a photo Harris took on Nov. 3, 2016 of one of his instructors, Maj. Richard Neikirk, in an on-campus bathroom, according to a recent report on ajc.com. Neikirk was at a urinal but had his shorts pulled below his buttocks, ajc.com reported.
Harris then sent the photo to three friends, who shared it with hundreds of people on the messaging platform GroupMe, according to ajc.com
A university investigation has recommended that Harris be suspended for two years and lose his scholarship, Massey said. He also faces criminal charges. He was arrested and charged with unlawful eavesdropping or surveillance, a felony, and transmission of photography depicting nudity, a misdemeanor. He faces up to six years in prison and a fine of more than $50,000 if convicted in Lumpkin County Superior Court.
Massey will attend the hearing in Dahlonega. Harris, a business major, is still enrolled in the university, taking a full academy load and is a few classes shy of being a senior.
"We would ask for them to let him finish the semester, sit out the summer and finish school and commission into the National Guard,” Massey said.
On Wednesday, Massey said the university’s decision will come on Friday. If his appeal fails, Harris can appeal the decision to the university president.
"He has taken full ownership of what he did here," Massey said. "He thought it was funny, took the picture, shared it. He knows he should not have done it. He's a good kid who made a bad decision. This is a teachable moment everyone has learned from."