Four Minnesota women recognized by NCAA for their community engagement

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 individuals in Minneapolis were honored at 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 achievements. 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, the first female police officer in St. Paul, 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 ever on the NAACP national board. She traveled with other students and marched from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery to support voting rights. 

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

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

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

Fartun Osman is the founder and CEO of Girls Rock, a Somali and Muslim girls’ sports group.  She grew up in Somalia and once dreamed of becoming the female Pele, but a pro soccer career was halted due to the lack of opportunities for women and girls in her country. 

After moving to the U.S. when war broke out in her native country, Osman learned that Somali and Muslim girls who wanted to play soccer faced barriers such as the right to play sports with their hijabs. Osman has coached and mentored over 1,000 girls in soccer, and Girls Rock has helped Somali girls succeed in education and sports. 

A 2017 National Girls & Woman in Sports Day Breaking Barrier Award winner and the 2018 International Somali Awards Sports Person of the Year, she also coached the Somali women’s national basketball team and is a U.S. ambassador for sports diplomacy.

Jessie Stomski Seim is Prairie Island Indian Community general counsel and oversees legal and governmental relations for the tribe. Seim has also represented various tribes and businesses in private practice and been recognized for numerous awards, including being named a Minnesota “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 their Athletic Hall of Fame in 2020.

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