Helping others brings joy to teen
WRITTEN BY Julie Drake
Paraclete High School senior Robert Norris smiles a lot these days. The happiness he feels comes from helping people he doesn’t know.
The ambitious, competitive, intense 17-year-old uses the same focus he displays on the gridiron playing defense or offense for the Spirits varsity football team toward helping others.
Robert took $500 he saved over six months doing odd jobs like yardwork and washing cars to buy something for himself and instead gave it to another high school student who wanted to go to college but had to work to achieve it.
Robert presented his Student to Student Scholarship in May to 17-year-old Knight High School senior Tamarie Magana during that school’s senior awards night.
“When I went up there in front of all the seniors I was kind of nervous, of course, but it actually felt good,” Robert said. “It was funny because I was the same age or younger than most of them. I went, and I stood up, (head counselor Raymond Hart) started talking about me. I just started laughing. It felt really good.”
Magana, who will attend California State University, Northridge, deemed Robert’s gesture “awesome.”
“I thought that was a great opportunity for him as well because that shows that he’s a leader. If he’s able to do that then, that’s great because he’s giving something out to other people,” she said at the time.
Robert’s next charitable endeavor is raising money for a food drive.
“I see a lot of people in bad situations, needing food or such. It went from being scared of them asking me for money to wanting to help them,” Robert said. “So, I figured if I could start a scholarship, why can’t I start a food drive.”
He created a website, www.robertscannedfooddrive.com, to collect donations via PayPal. Anyone who would like to help but doesn’t want to donate money can donate canned food. There is contact information on the website to arrange for pickup.
“I just like helping people,” Robert said. “Ever since the scholarship thing, I’ve just been wanting to help people.”
He hopes to raise at least $500.
“That’s like so low, but I could do something with $500,” Robert said.
The logo Robert created for his website features a cross with the words family, love, and respect on it. It also has a Native American symbol for Navajo, a nod to Robert’s heritage on his father Terry’s side, an Argentinian flag for his mother, Silvia, who is from Argentina, and an eagle and books.
“Just things that are important to me, my faith, my family, love, respect, (and) my ethnicities,” Robert said.
Dad Terry noted that Robert’s grandfather was the first Navajo to earn a doctoral degree.
Robert said his father and his friends all say that he has changed himself for the better in the past couple of months.
“I’ve been happier,” Robert said. “I used to be sort of just serious and grumpy. But now I don’t feel right if I don’t smile, or laugh. I can never express how much I like helping people, it brings such a joy.”
Robert contacted representatives of the Salvation Army Antelope Valley Corps to see how he can help them, too.
“They told me they’re always in need. There is always more people than there is food, so I want to at least be able to equal it out,” he said.
Robert is the youngest member of the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and also a member of the Antelope Valley Math, Science, Engineering and Technology Consortium.
“A lot of it kind of conflicts with football,” Robert said. “But at least it’s getting involved with the community, knowing what’s going on.”
This year Robert will play free safety, outside linebacker, middle linebacker, defensive end, and any offensive line position.
As one of 13 seniors returning to the squad this year, Robert is helping the freshmen get ready for the season by showing them how to lift weights properly.
“It’s all about teaching the kids so they can get better next year and help us this year,” Robert said.
Paraclete coach Norm Dahlia called Robert “a great young man.”
“Robert is one of the most honest, trustworthy, outspoken, always speaks his mind, young men that I’ve ever met,” Dahlia said. “He does not cave in to peer pressure. He’s a man of his word and somebody that anyone should be honored to call him a friend.”
On the field, Dahlia said Robert is versatile. This will be the teen’s third year starting at the varsity level as an offensive lineman.
“But he’s increased his strength and speed so much that when we go against running teams he’ll be in there as my free safety also, coming up on the run,” Dahlia said.
Robert hopes to play football in college. He hopes to get a scholarship to a Division I school.
“This is my senior season, it’s the last season. You can’t ever not be working a hundred percent. If you take a play off, that’s a play that they’ll see that you take off. That could be a scholarship,” Robert said.
If a football scholarship doesn’t happen, Robert’s fallback would be a military academy, such as the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where his father went. If he doesn’t attend a military academy, Robert would like to go to a preparatory school or The Citadel.
“I just like the military,” Robert said.
Robert is a certified master diver. He started his scuba training when he was 10 years old and has completed every level of commercial certification. The next level would be dive master, which would allow Robert to teach others how to dive.
“He’s taken off on his own; he’s really become his own man,” Terry Norris said.
“He’s a good person,” Silvia Norris added.
Asked her reaction when Robert told her that he wanted to take the money he had saved and give it to another student as a scholarship, Silvia said it was an honorable act.
“It’s hard to find anyone, not just teenagers, to give to others before they give to themselves,” Silvia said.