By Lynn Jones
For forty years, Raines’ guidance counselor Deborah Norman guided Duval County Public Schools student’s paths to post-secondary education institutions and sustainable career goals. Last week, 13 years after her retirement, Raines High school paid tribute to her dedication with the renaming of the Deborah Norman Guidance Suite.
“Becoming a guidance counselor was my calling,’ she says.
“Giving students guidance and an opportunity for success was my reality, I didn’t want to preach but I had a purpose to lead and guide,” said Norman.
Thirty of those forty years were spent at Raines High School where thousands of students crossed her path.
Learning to spot a student’s potential was an easy tasks for Norman, her personal philosophy was that all students should be given the chance to excel. She also believed that every student has potential. Even though each student’s success manifests differently, she also believes with motivation, the student was bound to triumph.
Her assistance often led outside of the school. Throughout the school year, various students were sometimes in need of clothes and even shelter.
Knowing that her counseling career was a ministry, Norman often assisted each student with basic necessities including ensuring they were learning on a full stomach, apparel, and sometimes even a safe haven to keep their foundation solid.
Throughout her tenure she often witnessed generations stop by her desk. Many of her student’s parents attended Raines.
“We expected excellence out of our students at Raines. That’s the way we operated – to meet all our students needs. Even if trade school was an option, I directed all my students to excellence,” she said.
And excellence was the tone as many of her students went on to hold high profile positions and careers in politics, theater, acting, news reporting, educators and more.
Joined by family, former students and staff, she was caught by surprise with the recent dedication. Norman had been lured to the school to make student certificate presentations when to her surprise she was informed of the renaming that would be made in honor of her commitment to Raines students.
These days she enjoys life of a retiree but still volunteers on a regular basis.
“I never was emotionally ready to retire, but it was time. I’ll never stop my ministry of helping others,” said Norman.