Norris to head Big Brothers/Big Sisters

By Sandi P. Beason

Daily Journal

When Lee Norris took over at Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northeast Mississippi, she hit the ground running.

"I'm so new I squeak," she said Wednesday.

Norris, who has served on the agency's board of directors and as a big sister, took over Monday as program director. She is replacing Amber Clemons, who left the agency to work at the Link Centre.

"It's exciting because when I came here I already loved the program," Norris said. "I had a relationship with a little (sister) and I knew what it meant to me. It changes the life of the child but it does so much for you."

Norris, a Columbus native, has lived in Tupelo for the past 10 years. She has worked for several non-profit agencies including the March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society.

"She was a good fit," said Becky Hudgins, director of programs out of Jackson. "She understood the program and its concept. She had been a big sister. With those great attributes, we knew she would fit in the position, and that's proven to be true."

Norris said she thought her first week would be spent on orientation, but instead has been busy making contacts.

"We've been on the road back and forth to Monroe County," she said. "We met with the school board and principals."

One of her goals, she said, is to get area school districts to sign on to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters school-based program, in which mentors spend one hour a week working with students enrolled in the program.

"We're trying to recruit adults and special high school seniors who exhibit leadership skills to work at the schools," she said. "Getting volunteers into schools is one way to determine the students who need (to be in) the community project. ... and volunteers are probably more likely to sign onto the one hour a week program before asking them to do the community-based program."

Hudgins said she hopes the Tupelo office can launch a successful school-based mentoring program to reach out to surrounding counties.

"We're hoping community leaders will come forward so their influence will trickle down," she said. "This has been a great, great program throughout the state."

Norris said the agency's goal is to serve 400 children by May. For more information, call Norris at 841-5741.

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