Four Minnesota Women Recognized by NCAA for Community Involvement

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Debbie Montgomery (l) and Lea B. Olsen
Photo by Charles Hallman

The NCAA annually honors individuals for their community involvement as part of their men’s and women’s Final Four festivities. Last weekend, four people in Minneapolis were honored in the Women’s Final Four.

All four honorees are women of color as 2022 Legacy Award recipients: Debbie Montgomery, Lea Olsen, Fartun Osman and Jessie Stomski Seim. Each received a Legacy plaque and recognition at a private reception for their accomplishments. They also met with local college student-athletes, interacted with other local and NCAA officials and were recognized during a timeout at the Connecticut-Stanford contest last Friday.

Debbie Montgomery, St. Paul’s first female police officer, served in law enforcement for 28 years. She was elected to the St. Paul City Council as the first black female member.

Growing up in the Rondo neighborhood, Montgomery was a pre-Title IX athlete who, at age 17, was one of the youngest members of the NAACP National Board. She traveled with other students and marched from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery to support suffrage.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized,” she told MSR.

Lea B. Olsen founded Rethink the Win, a resource for people to rethink sport and its impact on athletes and to help create better experiences for children in sport. She played basketball in Minnesota and studied journalism. She is the longest-serving black female analyst for the Minnesota Lynx, a veteran reporter for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and is an annual analyst at girls’ and boys’ state basketball tournaments.

An advocate and strong supporter of women in the media, Olsen’s community service over the years has also been applauded. “I feel humbled because so many people are doing so much good work in this community to recognize me,” Olsen noted.

Fartun Osman is the founder and CEO of Girls Rock, a sports group of Somali and Muslim girls. She grew up in Somalia and once dreamed of becoming the Pelé woman, but a career as a professional footballer was cut short due to the lack of opportunities for women and girls in her country.

After moving to the United States when war broke out in his native country, Osman learned that Somali and Muslim girls who wanted to play football faced barriers such as being allowed to play sports in their hijab. Osman has coached and mentored over 1,000 girls in football, and Girls Rock has helped Somali girls succeed in education and sport.

Winner of the 2017 National Girls & Woman in Sports Day Breaking Barrier Award and the 2018 International Somali Awards Sports Personality of the Year, she also coached the Somali women’s national basketball team and is a US Ambassador for Sports Diplomacy .

Jessie Stomski Seim is General Counsel for the Prairie Island Indian Community and oversees legal and government relations for the tribe. Seim has also represented various tribes and businesses in private practice and has been recognized for numerous awards, including being named Minnesota’s “Rising Star” by Minnesota Super Lawyers magazine.

She grew up in Wisconsin and later graduated from Tartan High School, then played college basketball at the University of Wisconsin, where she was later inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2020.

“I’m just honored to be with these women,” Montgomery said, “honored to be with this group of women who are addressing issues that impact our communities. I just think it’s very important.

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