Jessica "Jessie" Stewart
A perfect storm drove Jessie into the foster care system at age 14. Her mother died when she was 10 years old. When her father neglected her, Jessie went to live with family friends. But when the father in that family passed away, Jessie became a part of the dependency system. Jessie was shuffled through several foster homes before she was assigned an Advocate. “With all the changes I’d gone through, my Advocate was the one consistent presence in my life.” A self-admitted “super shy girl back then,” Jessie remembers her first contacts with Allie, her Advocate. “I just answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – I was too shy to say anything else. But then she asked me about books.” A voracious reader, Allie’s question resonated, and from then on they talked about stories together. “I had always
wanted to learn to cook,” Jessie said,” so one of the books she gave me was a cookbook. We used that to shop and cook at the CASA house.” Allie also shared Jessie’s Educational Rights. With Jessie working below grade level, it took Allie’s advocacy at the school to ensure that Jessie received the tutoring she needed in order to graduate on time and with her peers. Now that Jessie is 18, she says, “Allie is now my mentor, rather than my Advocate. I’m pretty independent, and have learned how to advocate for myself.” But Jessie readily admits, “Without Allie, I wouldn’t have graduated from high school, wouldn’t be in cosmetology school, and wouldn’t be living on my own. Without her showing me the way, I just wouldn’t have seen those options.”
Jessie is now an adult and has chosen to share her real name and photo.