By Joel Hall
For the past 24 years, the National Child Labor Committee has honored a handful of unsung heroes nationwide for their outstanding service to children. Out of thousands of nominees, Rex resident Darlene Beale-Norris was one of 10 honored recently with the Lewis Hine Award for Service to Children and Youth.
Beale-Norris, president and CEO of Leadership and Development of our Youth in Sports (LADYS), a local non-profit which mentors and develops young female athletes, was flown to New York City last weekend for recognition along with nine other national winners.
Joyce Appelman, publicity director for the award, said it is named for Lewis Hine, a photographer who documented child labor abuses in the early 20th Century.
"His photographs provided the NCLC with the leverage it needed to advance the enactment of state and federal laws to protect the rights of children in the workplace, including the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the first major federal child labor law ever enacted," said Appelman.
"The one thing about Lewis Hine is that he was never honored while he was alive. That's why the NCLC feels that this award is so important, because it honors people who are alive and who are making a difference."
Each winner received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York for the weekend. On Sunday, at the Hilton New York Hotel, each winner was given a trophy and a $1,000 cash prize, said Appelman.
Beale-Norris, an All-American basketball player at Howard University, graduated from the college in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, and went on to receive a master's degree in sports management from Brooklyn College. From 1994 to 1995, she served as an assistant women's basketball coach at Howard, and in 1995, was the deputy competition manager for basketball in the 1996 Centennial Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In 2001, while working as the general manager for the now-defunct Atlanta Justice women's basketball team, she began working full time as the president and CEO of LADYS. Beale-Norris said the group helps more than 300 girls a year, ranging in ages from 8 to 16, gain confidence, spiritual guidance, and the tools they need to enter college on an athletic scholarship. All must maintain a B average in school, she said.
"We have girls from every spectrum of life," Beale-Norris said. "A young girl who participates in sports is unlikely to have an unwanted pregnancy, unlikely to participate in drug activities, and they are more likely to graduate from school. Our main goal is to get them into college, and hopefully, on an athletic scholarship."
Beale-Norris said while most of the girls come from Clayton County, some travel from Henry and Fayette counties to participate in a program that includes organized college tours, and SAT preparation courses.
Jeffrey Newman, president of the NCLC, hopes honoring Beale-Norris will inspire others in the community to follow her lead.
"We don't depend on the people who win Academy Awards ... but we really depend on people like Darlene," Newman said. The kind of work that people like Darlene are doing is "making the world a better place, and we need more of that, not less. We hope these awards encourage other people to get involved and realize how important this work is," he said.
Beale-Norris said the award gave her a renewed sense of energy and motivation.
"Participating in the community can get tiring, but it is nice to get a boost that puts you back in the saddle," she said. "In the midst of it, you don't get those thank yous, so to get that kind of appreciation nationally is a great honor."
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