Tuesday, July 2, 2013

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Norris Soars to New Heights at Hampton Univ.

Henry Norris ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT photo
Norris played on the Harper football team before moving on to Hampton University and graduating this past May.
PALATINE, Ill. – From the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2010, former Harper football player Henry Norris was a recognizable figure around the college's campus because of his heavy involvement in student activities on campus. After graduating from Harper, Norris spent the past 2 ½ years at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., where he was also heavily involved in campus activities, and graduated this May on Mother's Day with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Aviation Management.

Coming to Harper at the age of 17 from Proviso West High School, Norris redshirted his first year and played special teams and linebacker for the Hawks the following two years (2009, 2010). Former Harper football coach Eric Waldstein said that he really stood out as a leader on the field.

"He was someone we could always count on to do the right thing and be where he needed to be," Waldstein said. "He was a guy you wanted in the trenches with you."

Norris exemplified that leadership on and off the field at Harper, as he was the President of the Black Student Union (BSU), which promotes African American culture at Harper and the surrounding college community. He also was a member of the Student Senate and a part of the budget committee for the senate.  Finally, Norris co-founded the Male Institute, a program based in the Center for Multicultural Learning (CML) that helps mold young men with training in proper male etiquette.

"Coming to Harper at the age of 17, all I was involved in really matured me as a person and made me stronger," Norris said. "I made a lot of lifelong friends, and the professors were great and very easy to reach out to and talk to."

A friend of Norris' got him interested in aviation and flying, causing him to research different schools for aviation. He choose Hampton University in Hampton, Va. to continue pursuing his education, 882 miles from his hometown of Bellwood, Ill.

"I always loved planes, and I just had that jet fuel in my blood," Norris said. "I started off a civil engineering major wanting to design runways until my friend Aaron Stanton from College of DuPage told me to look into aviation programs."

Norris left home with only two bags of clothes and said it was difficult at first because he had never been to Virginia and getting acclimated would take some time to get used to.

Once he settled in, Norris took on a large class load at Hampton with 17 credit hours in the spring of 2011 followed by six hours in the summer.

"I took a couple of aviation foundation classes and they had a great department, so I eventually developed a passion and love for it," he said.

The following school year (2011-12), he took 18 credit hours per semester, many of those in business and aviation as he began honing in on his Aviation Management major. While Norris acknowledged that his upper-level business classes were more difficult than his classes at Harper, he felt his Harper classes prepared him well.

He was growing as a student and earning academic scholarship money for his good grades, but he obtained the most valuable experience in the aviation industry by interning in the airport control tower in the summer of 2012 at Washington Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Va. Norris also interned in airport operations in the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013 at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Newport, Va. It was there that he learned the most about the aviation industry through shadowing, presentations and being in an airport all of the time. Norris learned the ins and outs of how an airport operates while also spending time in the air traffic control towers, watching air traffic controllers send out and bring in airplanes.

Even with a full plate of classes and internships, Norris became involved in campus life at Hampton. He was a part of the Alpha Eta Rho Aviation Fraternity, National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE), Student Government Association Men's Caucus Mentoring Group and the Hampton University Wrestling Club. Norris also imparted his football knowledge in the community as a volunteer youth football coach.

Norris graduated this past May magna cum laude with a 3.72 GPA. Currently, he works part-time for 7th District State Representative Chris Welch as a constituent outreach director. He recently attended the Airport Minority Advisory Council in San Diego to network for jobs.

Last week, Norris interviewed for a supervisor position with American Airlines. He made the first cut and has a one-on-one interview this upcoming week that could determine his career path.

"I'm so excited for this. I'm just keeping the faith and I am going to claim this one," he said.

Norris also begins graduate school at DeVry University next week, where he hopes to obtain his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) Degree.

Looking back at his time at Harper, Norris felt his ability to persevere helped him immensely since moving on.

"What you put into it is what you get out of it," Norris said. "I stayed very involved at Harper, I networked and had self-drive that i was going to be successful. I encourage all student-athletes at Harper to believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, be humble, stay patient and keep the faith and things will go in your favor. I always say good things come to those who grind for it."       

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