James P. Norris
James Preston Norris has a passion to give back to his community by using his experience, training, and skills in providing mental health services to male youth in Seattle’s inner city. He feels a responsibility to help others reach their goals as others helped him reach his. Mr. Norris is a 29-year-old black man who grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles, California, in a single-parent household. His alcoholic father was very physically abusive to his mother, so she removed him from his father’s influence and got him involved in athletics to keep him off the streets and away from the gang life. His mother accomplished that, but he still witnessed acts of violence, including the murders of friends and family. Gun violence was a frequent occurrence in his neighborhood. Even though Mr. Norris was exposed to many negative experiences, his mother stressed to him that education would be the avenue to create a better life for himself. One barrier that could possibly stop him from getting an education so he could get out of the inner city was lack of the financial resources to pay for his education. His mother told him that he would have to use his mind and athletic abilities to get funding for his education. He was successful in obtaining his Associate of Arts degree from Los Angeles Valley Community College in a year and a half. He then received a football scholarship from Western Illinois University and completed his degree in Liberal Studies with a focus in education. After graduation, he pursued a professional football career, signing two Arena Football League contracts with the Spokane Shock and Stockton Lightening. When his playing career was over, he began a career as a Correctional Officer for the King County Jail in Seattle, Washington. During the past seven years that he has been working for the King County Jail, he applied to and graduated from a masters-level graduate program in clinical psychology at Seattle University. His graduate training was a catalyst in helping him understand how his childhood experiences in South Central LA have given him a unique perspective on mental health for youth in an inner city. He understands how valuable mentors and counselors can be in providing a safe place where young men can untangle from past suffering and venture forth with strength and hope.