While Anthony Norman was growing up in Chelsea, his path could have gone a number of ways, he said, but with the help of the Jordan Boys & Girls Club – it took him to medical school and the busy life of a physician in the halls of an elite hospital.
Dr. Norman, who was inducted into the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston Hall of Fame last month, said he was stunned to be in the company of so many accomplished people. At the same time he marveled at how he could have gone the wrong direction while growing up in Chelsea, had it not been for the strong network of his family combined with the great mentors at the Club.
“Truthfully I don’t consider myself ‘the’ smartest person – hardworking for sure,” he said. “I think the Club was a safe haven that taught me hard work and I don’t know how thing would have gone without it. I could have gone other directions that weren’t as fruitful. It isn’t a stretch to say that I might have gone the wrong way. I may not have been fine. It’s why I give high praise to the Club.”
Norman, 27, grew up in Chelsea and attended Our Lady of Grace School, St. Rose School and then went on to BC High School. After that, he went on to Boston College to study Biology and Pre-Med. After a year of clinical research at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, he was able to get a spot in Tufts School of Medicine. After four years there, he graduated and is in his first year as a resident at the University of Virginia – hoping to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon.
He is married to Elyse Diaz-Norman, who hails from New York.
Such terms and accomplishments are so far from Chelsea, but Norman said his ability to achieve them has everything to do with Chelsea – in particular the Club. He said he was introduced to the Jordan Club at the age of 5. His mother, Sylvia Divasta, was looking for a safe place for him to go after school where he would learn and be engaged with good mentors.
It was at that time he met Josh Kraft, who actually gave him the okay to start a little early, Norman laughed.
“I was going to the Club since I was 5 years old, which was before you were supposed to go,” he said. “My mom was looking for a safe after-school program in Chelsea that had good supervision and mentorship. At first it was great for the homework help and a place to go after school, but the later I would go and didn’t want to leave. It really blossomed for me. I went all the way through high school until I left for college.”
Kraft said Norman was the kind of member that exemplified the values of the Club.
“Anthony Norman exemplifies all the values that make Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston such an important part of Boston and Chelsea for the past 130 years: commitment to community, respect and love for all, and thoughtful leadership,” said Kraft, Nicholas President and CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.
Michelle Perez Vichot, now at the Central Office for the Club, said she remembers Norman since he was very little.
“I’ve known Anthony and his families since my days at the Chelsea Club,” said Vichot, Executive Vice President, Operations, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. “Witnessing his journey from a Club kid to successfully pursuing his dreams with character and grace has been a tremendous source of pride for me.”
Said Gina Centrella, Kraft Family Executive Director, Jordan Boys & Girls Club of Chelsea, “Anthony was an awesome Club member and continues to be a very active alum. As a teen he was engaged in almost all areas of the Club and was always a dedicated student. He was and still is a great example to younger members by showing that setting goals and working hard pays off.”
As he looked back on his times in preparation for the Hall of Fame induction, Norman said he has grown to appreciate the safe haven the Club offered, as well as the mentorship that he said hasn’t stopped even though he is an adult.
“In my pre-teen years, I had some family dynamic challenges and life challenges,” he said. “There were a couple of mentors who I felt really guided me and I look at that time as a fork in the road and they steered me down the better path…Ultimately that was the biggest factor – the mentoring.”
But it also expanded his horizons, he said, for he and his siblings – who are also very accomplished. He was on the swim team since the age of 11 and was captain two years. He also got involved in the performing arts at the Club, and attended countless field trips to places he wouldn’t have dreamt of going to.
Norman concluded by saying he hasn’t walked the halls of the Jordan Club in many years, but he said it’s a place that is still home.
“It has been a long time since I walked the Club halls and corridors, but I still keep in touch with people that were great role models,” he said. “You’re always a Club kid so to speak. They’ve been life-long mentors and that’s meant the world to me.”