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Ask an Alpha Chi: Tami Norris

In honor of our seven Founders, we get to know one Alpha Chi Omega through seven questions.

Tami Norris (Beta Omega, The University of Toledo)

Tami has more than 30 years of experience as an educator and trainer in computer application, workforce readiness and industrial work – and she’s using that experience to volunteer with her local homeless shelter in designing and managing a series of job readiness programs.

Q: What is your passion?
A: I would say helping. I volunteer for a variety of organizations, several of which serve youth. I am involved with scouting and serve as a youth mentor at our church. I would say I was pretty awkward as a teen, so I try to be there for teens and help them learn to love themselves, laugh at themselves and embrace who they are. I also have a passion for cooking. We host international high school students for the school year, and one of the guys this year loves to cook, so we are having a great time making all kids of Asian dishes. I’ve learned to make bibimbap, shaking beef and bao buns so far!

Q:How are you making a difference in the world?
A: When I was younger, I imagined myself doing something huge but have since learned it is really all the little things that allow you to change your part of the world. I’ve walked with a teen at an amusement park when the other group members didn’t want to, picked up a teen from a party she shouldn’t have been at, helped scouts with merit badges and Eagle projects…it’s the little things that add up. I firmly believe that if we each spent time making our part of the world a better place, it would add up pretty quickly, and that would make a huge impact!

Q: What trainings or topics do your programs at your local homeless shelter include?
A: We are combining technical skills with workforce skills. The programs we offer with our community partners include digital literacy, customer service/administrative representative and certified production technician. Besides the hands-on computer or manufacturing skills in these programs, we have also included components of what it takes to succeed on the job. These skills include emotional intelligence, teamwork, conflict resolution and prioritizing. Our programs are designed with employers in mind, so while we don’t guarantee a job after completing the program, if you do the work, come to class regularly and on time, and are the best you, the skills you have gained have been vetted through local employers who are hiring, so your chances of getting a job are greatly improved.

Q: What is your long-term goal in your work with those experiencing homelessness?

A: Homelessness is a broad definition. It includes people who are residing in shelters to people who couch-surf — staying a week here and then to another friend and a few days there. In my opinion, handouts to people on the street doesn’t improve their long-term quality of life. I focus on working with agencies who want to help improve their situations and the economy of the community in which they reside. It’s more than just helping a person to employment. If someone gets a job and leaves the community, the community is still in poverty. Long term, I want to work to find ways to bring recovery to communities. We start with the concept of “every person has something to offer” and build from that.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

A: People are surprised to learn I’ve started grad school this year. I am working on a doctorate in organization design and change at Bowling Green State University.

Q: How has Alpha Chi Omega had an impact in your life?
A: I’ve learned so much through Alpha Chi Omega. It is my source of sisterhood. I have a brother and three sons, so I don’t have a lot of women in my immediate family, but I have these special sisters. I also love the diversity of the women. We have politicians, IT professionals, teachers, artists and stay-at-home moms. We have such different life paths, but we are all sisters, and we all come together around that and use our various skills and talents to further Alpha Chi and to support our philanthropy of domestic violence awareness and prevention.

Q: What does being a real, strong woman mean to you?
A: Resilience. I use the pandemic as an example. I am a stress-eater; it would have been so easy for me to get defeated by these terrible times we are experiencing and snack all day long since I was working from home. But deep inside I knew I couldn’t let it beat me. I actually started a diet and, since my gym was closed, found online workouts I did each day during that time. Since March, I’ve lost 12 pounds. Was it easy? Nope! The real, strong women I know aren’t free from a life of trouble, but they face it head-on with conviction and make the best of the situations they are dealt.

Want to share your story and your #WhyAlphaChi? Visit the Contact Us link at the bottom of this page or email editor@alphachiomega.org to tell us more!