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Alabama Public Television Young Heroes of 2011

Jessica Devoe

Piedmont, Alabama
Piedmont High School

At the age of five, Jessica DeVoe had a little brother and two little sisters. Her mother worked while her father smoked and drank at home. It was Jessica’s job to provide all care for her siblings. Just before kindergarten, Jessica’s parents left her at her grandmother’s house and departed with her three siblings. No explanation was given, but this turned out to be a brief lull of peace for Jessica. She was enrolled in school, and there was a stable home environment.

Three months later, Jessica’s parents returned and took her away to Arizona. The family lived in a small trailer in the desert. It was during this period that abuse by Jessica’s father increased in frequency and brutality. Jessica lived in constant fear.

Another sibling was born. Finances were tough. Jessica recalls her mother being arrested for writing bad checks. There was a warrant for her mother in Alabama, and she was transported there to serve one year in jail. Jessica and her siblings were left alone in the care of their abusive father.

After her sentence, Jessica’s mother returned to Arizona, and the family moved into a house. Jessica inadvertently revealed some of her father’s abuse at school. That night, she was cruelly beaten. Shortly thereafter, the father abandoned them—leaving her mother pregnant. Jessica’s grandmother sent for the family, and they moved back to Alabama.

Jessica began to notice her mother acting “strange.” Jessica’s mother sent for her father, and they took the family to live in a cheap hotel. The brutal abuse of all resumed. At the age of 8, Jessica was now charged with the care of five children younger than herself.

In a lucid moment, Jessica’s mother asked if she was being abused. Jessica told the truth. This led to a whirl of medical examinations, warrants, arrests, testimony in court – and ultimately, the sentencing of Jessica’s father to life in prison. Subsequent years were filled with transient living, a neglectful mother, unmet needs and unpaid bills. The mother finally abandoned the family. Though in bad health, Jessica’s grandmother stepped forward to assume custody.

Jessica holds a part-time job and performs extensive volunteer work in the community. She is an honor student at Piedmont High School, participating in softball and volleyball. Jessica’s guidance counselor Sandra Akin wrote, “[Jessica] is not sorry for herself. She has taken all of the horrible things that have happened to her, and she has gained strength, courage, willpower and confidence from them.” A hero is not one who does not feel fear. A hero is one who perseveres in the face of fear. Jessica DeVoe is a Young Hero of Alabama.

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