published Monday, April 16th, 2012

NPR's Michele Norris to speak at Odyssey award ceremony in Chattanooga


• What: Odyssey 2012: Engineering a Dream Luncheon and Award Ceremony.

• When: Wednesday, noon.

• Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter St.

• Admission: $75 per person, tables start at $800.

• Phone: 423-468-4105.

• Website:

Michele Norris fondly remembers Mr. Sample, her flag football coach from her hometown of Minneapolis, Minn.

"He decided we needed something that would bring us together and create a sense of pride," said Norris, host of All Things Considered on National Public Radio. "You need to look for the Mr. Samples in life."

Norris will be the keynote speaker Wednesday at the Odyssey 2012: Engineering a Dream Luncheon and Award Ceremony, an annual fundraiser that benefits the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy. CGLA is the first single-sex public charter school in the state of Tennessee.

The curriculum focuses on the STEM subjects -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The school is 78 percent African American, 20 percent Hispanic and two percent Caucasian.

Women in general are underrepresented within the STEM fields, said Melanie Dalson, director of development for Young Women's Leadership Academy Foundation, and minority women even less so.

"It's important to demonstrate to these girls that they have the capability and ability to move forward in these STEM fields," she said. "There's not necessarily a lot of natural role models, so the school allows that opportunity for them to experience, see and work with role models."

Role models such as Norris, who was named 2009's Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and fellow speaker Col. Eileen Collins, former NASA astronaut and the first woman to pilot and command an American spacecraft.

Three local women will be presented with awards. A CGLA student will receive the Rising Star award; Center for Creative Arts alumna Shaunte Harris, a mechanical engineering major at University of Tennessee at Knoxville, will receive the Shining Star award; and one of five local professionals will receive the Supernova award.

Dalson said she hopes hearing from women who are finding their own successes will be inspirational and encouraging to the CGLA students.

"Sometimes (it helps) hearing from the other side, from someone who's been there and can reach back and tell you it's going to be OK," Norris said.

Contact Holly Leber at or 423-757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at Subscribe to her on Facebook at

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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