Monday, July 9, 2018

Michelle Norris, U.S. Department of Justice honoree

A university class assignment led Springfield native Michelle Norris into a field of interest that has earned her honors from the U. S. Department of Justice.

Norris, a senior communication major at the University of Illinois Springfield who works full time as a student clerk for the U. S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of Illinois, was one of several U.S. Department of Justice employees recently honored with the Director’s Award during a ceremony June 15 in Washington, D.C.

Norris, 21, was honored for her work as interim coordinator for the Central Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of Illinois.

An employee of the U.S. Attorney’s Office since June 2016, Norris first got involved with the task force in March 2017, after learning of an organization that aids survivors and victims of trafficking in central Illinois through a class assignment.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Norris is a 2015 graduate of Sacred Heart-Griffin High School and plans to graduate from UIS in December. “I’m going to get my Master of Social Work. I eventually want to end up being a victim specialist, so I’ll get my master’s,” said Norris, who is the daughter of Jim and Eileen Norris, and who has three younger siblings.

In your growing-up years, did anything influence your current focus on helping people? “No. That’s what’s funny about it. My major is communication, but I started at this office. “It was a class at UIS, and our assignment was to go interview an agency or someone in an agency that you’re interested in, and for some reason, I just found Grounds of Grace, which is an organization in Springfield that did human trafficking (aids survivors and victims of trafficking in central Illinois.)

“I just first started attending the meetings. It was like two meetings. I just wanted to be a fly on the wall. I just wanted to hear from the experts. Then all of a sudden it’s like I just started taking on more tasks and more tasks, and then now I’m leading it, and I’m like, ‘Whoa. When did we get here?’ ”

“The everyday person can help out, just by knowing some of the signs and knowing there’s a hotline I can call if I ever see anything suspicious (National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1 (888) 373-7888).”

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 8, 2018.

Read the entire article online.