School violence, addiction to drugs and alcohol, loss of self-esteem from casual sex, and the breakdown of the family are issues Jessica has been concerned about since middle school. She saw the devastating effects to students from the negative behaviors rampant in society today including one of her own classmates being stabbed to death outside her classroom.
Beginning in high school, Jessica chose to make a difference by volunteering with character and literacy organizations such as Camp Fire USA and Better Basics. Her most innovative work is the creation and implementation of her own non-profit corporation, P.R.A.I.S.E., Inc., dedicated to character education. Through these efforts and dedication to her P.R.A.I.S.E. program (Promoting Responsibility, Awareness, Integrity, Service, and Education as well as “praising” students learning positive character attributes) Jessica has donated well over 2,000 hours of service.
Alabama has an unfunded mandate for ten minutes of character education per day. There are serious needs to effectively teach positive character traits and for funding to train teachers for this purpose. Jessica raised funding and awarded scholarships to teachers to attend the Josephson Institute of Ethics through CHARACTER COUNTS! a seminar on how to add character education into existing curriculums. Additionally, Jessica has tutored and spoken with students of all ages, in groups large and small, promoting the pillars of character for positive life choices.
Jessica met with legislators to promote awareness for the need of effective character education. She spoke to corporations, civic groups, the Department of Education, and created a DVD to assist in promoting funding and awareness. Jessica has connected various leaders and administrators in the community to work together for better character education.
The impact of Jessica’s work is demonstrated in the words of one teacher after attending a training seminar. “This was an amazing experience which I feel will be extremely beneficial to my students. I am so grateful to P.R.A.I.S.E., Inc. for providing this opportunity. Without this scholarship, I could not have attended this training.” Typical comments heard from students are exemplified by a high school student who approached Jessica saying how much it meant to her and her fellow students to hear Jessica speak to the entire student body about respecting their fellow students and about the positive rewards for not allowing peer pressure to force them into unwanted sex.
The impact of Jessica’s work can also be demonstrated by formal recognition she has received. She received the Finley Character Award. The United Way – Camp Fire USA recognized Jessica as their outstanding mentor. She is an official mentor for the State of Alabama, and the Legislature passed a resolution commending Jessica and P.R.A.I.S.E., Inc. for community service. The City of Center Point passed a proclamation in May 2006 for “Jessica Headley Day” thanking her for service to their community. Jessica’s work is ongoing and will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of youth, the integrity of future workers, and society as a whole.