Today we feature Harley Sarmiento, a junior Sports Communication and Media major with a concentration in Sports Journalism from Gibbstown, NJ (Gloucester County). Harley is a member of the Navy Reserve and mother to her 1-year-old son. Harley goes into detail on her experience within the military and as a transfer student at Rowan.
Why did you choose to study Sports Communication and Media?
I was an athlete growing up. During high school I competed in two different varsity sports and then I managed a varsity sport in the winter. Because of this, I always had a personal connection to sports. My family was also heavily involved in our sports programs back in my home town. Once I started journalism in the military, I decided I wanted to pursue it on the sports side while working on the civilian side.
Why did you choose Rowan to study Sports Communication and Media?
I am a transfer student from University of California San Diego. I was stationed there for four years, and I just moved back to New Jersey in May.
Once I moved back to New Jersey and I was looking at schools, I found that Rowan was the best fit for me location wise and in regards to my academic goals.
How has Rowan supported you in being a mother, active in the navy and being a student?
This fall semester is my first semester here at Rowan. The professors that I have had this semester have been extremely supportive. I have been taking both online and in person classes this semester and the professors have really been flexible with my schedule. For the most part, I have had really good relationships with all my professors to where if something comes up with my son, they were super easy to communicate with and understand that being a mother comes first.
At my previous university, I did not have the support, understanding or flexibility from my professors. Rowan has been extremely helpful, especially during my first semester here as a transfer student.
Can you talk a little bit about why you joined the Navy? What was your motivation to join?
My grandfather and my uncle were both in the Navy. Because of this, I always heard about the military growing up. The year before I joined the Navy, my cousin, who was my best friend throughout my childhood, joined the Marine Corps. My cousin seemed to have a very positive experience and this led me to deciding to join the Navy. I also did not want to give my parents the burden of paying for college. After weighing my options, I decided to join the Navy, travel the world for a time period, and then come back and finish my degree.
Can you talk a little bit about where you have been deployed to and your experience on duty? What is the longest time you have been away from home? Are you going to be deployed anytime soon?
When you are active in the Navy, you know a timeframe of when you will be deployed. For instance, I knew a couple months ahead that I was going to be deployed because they are scheduled. However, now that I am on the reserve side, I kind of get to pick and choose if I want to go or if I want to stay home — unless something huge happens and they need me to go serve. My current title is Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class, Surface Warfare/Air Warfare.
When I was on the active side, I deployed to many different places. In 2018, I deployed for 10.5 months on the USNS Mercy. This was a hospital humanitarian ship where we provided medical care for many different countries. Some of the countries that I have been to were Japan, Indonesia, Guam, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and some smaller islands owned by the bigger countries mentioned. I was a photographer journalist, so my job was basically to document everything we did for these countries while on these deployments.
Do you plan on having a future professional career in Sports Communication and Media or do you hope to stay involved with the naval academy and/or military in some way?
My goal overall is to eventually separate from the Navy to pursue a more civilian career in Sports Communications. As much as I loved the military, it was not heavily family oriented. I want to see my son grow up and be available to attend all his events, and this is unlikely while being active in the Navy.
How do you manage to balance your education with your involvement in the Navy while also being a mother?
Coming back to New Jersey and my hometown has been extremely beneficial for my son and my family. My parents still live locally, my cousins, aunts, uncles and siblings all chip in and help, [my] boyfriend’s family helps, and everyone in my circle is willing to help whenever we need anything. I am really lucky that I have such a big support system.
What is your favorite part of being a mother?
I think providing my child with everything I ever wanted is one of my favorite parts of being a mother. For instance, my son just turned 1 year old in August, and we took him to Disney with my family for his birthday. I think seeing his excitement everyday is so rewarding. The little things that make him happy like the Christmas tree and the lights are so rewarding. It is like I get to see the world through a kid’s eyes again.
What are your goals after you graduate?
I am hoping that it works out that I can be a stay-at-home mom for a little bit since my boyfriend has a stable job [who is in the Army]. Once my son starts school, I plan on hopefully working for a local newspaper and cover the high school sports of the area. My boyfriend is 28 and I am 23 and we enjoy attending and watching the sporting events locally, so I think it would be interesting to cover those events for a newspaper.
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Natalie DePersia, junior public relations major