Meet the Team
Jodi Norton, President and Co-Founder
Jodi Norton, President and Co-founder of L.I.F.E., has battled lupus since her teens. Since her diagnosis, she overcame numerous challenges and fought for many successes. Jodi graduated from Columbia College in New York City with a degree in neuroscience, maintaining a 3.7 GPA while diving on the NCAA Division I diving team. Despite being told by doctors to abandon her academic and athletic ambitions, she went on to place 10th at the prestigious Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Diving Championships. After the 1995-96 season she was selected from over 400 nominations to receive the ECAC Award of Valor. Jodi’s diving coach, Gordon Spencer, described her as being “intensely driven” and added “it’s not just sports.” The following year, Jodi received the 1997 Giant Steps Award-Courageous Female STUDENT-athlete award from the Center of Sport and Society at Northeastern University and NCAA. On national STUDENT-Athlete Day she was honored at the Whitehouse by President Clinton. Furthermore, Jodi was the first female diver from her region to win a Gold Medal at the Empire State Games.When Jodi wasn’t training or in the classroom she taught inner-city children to swim or dive, visited elementary schools to talk and inspire children to follow their dreams, and volunteered for the Child Life Program making hospital visits to critically ill children.
While at Columbia, Jodi’s artwork went into publication and she served as a spokesperson for the New York City Lupus Gala and was named the first Exceptional People with Lupus by the Lupus Foundation of America. Jodi spent her last year of college conducting independent research in ecological health at Columbia’s Biosphere II Center and was a student-researcher for Dr. Andrew Weil’s Program of Integrative Medicine in Tucson, AZ. During and after college, Jodi lectured to medical students and has taken advantage of many opportunities to share her story—which is one of triumph and relentless determination to overcome the limitations of an autoimmune disease. Jodi started L.I.F.E. after undergoing an experimental bone marrow transplant in 2001 and has also battled thyroid cancer. In the year 2005 book by Richard E. Lapchick, 100 Heroes: People in Sports Who Make This a Better World, Jodi received recognition for being one of the top 100 most inspirational sports figures in America.
Jodi has dedicated her adult life to the service of others and her mother is her greatest ally. Together, Jodi and her mother started "Toys of Courage" in 2012. This program was established in an effort to recognize the bravery of children that undergo painful treatments, hospitalizations and frequent visits to the doctor’s office. Toys, games, books and other distraction items are given to ease the fear small children face while in a scary environment. The act of giving a toy to a child that is scarred and to watch the fear turn into a big smile is so rewarding.
Currently, she is working towards an advanced degree in clinical research and hopes to continue to share her story and be a source of hope and inspiration to all those facing adversity.
Bianca Augusto, Vice President
Bianca began volunteering with L.I.F.E. after being selected as a 2009 L.I.F.E. Scholarship Recipient. In 2010, because of her academic merit, volunteer ambitions and hard work, Bianca was selected to be the first recipient to be a part of the Scholarship Selection Committee and was recognized as L.I.F.E.’s 10th Anniversary featured winner. According to Bianca, “Winning this scholarship has changed my life. I have been given the opportunity to touch the lives of others living with lupus like me. Corresponding with the winners has given me the strength to realize that I am not alone, and I hope I have been able to provide the same strength in return.” After working with L.I.F.E. for a few years, Bianca found her passion for working with non-profits in the healthcare industry. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people; my elementary school teachers used to tell my parents that I was the ‘mother hen’ of the class, always trying to take care of the other students. Having a chronic disease like lupus, I find myself being drawn to people with any chronic disease because I understand their struggles and I want to help.” Bianca graduated summa cum laude in May 2012 from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Since then, Bianca works as a Research Coordinator for a NCI-designated cancer hospital doing research on breast cancer and HPV vaccination.
Jenna Larsen, V.P. of Communications
Jenna became involved with the L.I.F.E foundation after meeting Jodi at the University of Arizona in 2009 while pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences. Since graduating, she went on to obtain a Master of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences at Columbia University’s Institute of Medicine in New York City. During this time, she completed her thesis work in the field of public health, working on NYC food access and health education initiatives. She remained in the field of public health after graduating in 2011, working as a consultant to implement physical activity and nutrition initiatives in child care centers and in farmers markets in high-need areas in New York City. In her spare time, she spends time catching up with friends, nannying, and contributing nutrition content for the blog, pt2go.co.
John Grogan, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
John Grogan’s contribution to L.I.F.E has been invaluable. Since 2005, John has consistently offered his skills and expertise in IT as the founder and web developer of lifescholarship.org. John holds a BA & MS in Computer Science as well as an MBA from Columbia University. He currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, and serves as Vice President, Information Technology at Axiom Law.
Dilyn Grabell, Featured Volunteer
Hi, my name is Dilyn Grabell and I am currently a high school student attending BASIS Tucson North in Tucson, Arizona. After volunteering for a year at a non-profit that focused on helping students succeed in school, I later began working with L.I.F.E. to try and make a difference for people who, like me, are students. It is especially important for me to help students because being a student myself I feel connected to them and I could not imagine living with a chronic disease or enduring other hardships while managing the stressful course load. Therefore, I am passionate about volunteering for L.I.F.E. as I understand the importance of education and hope that my contribution to the organization can make completing an education easier. In 2017, when I graduate from high school, I hope to attend a college on the east coast and pursue a business degree. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, traveling and playing sports.