Jessica Markwood, 14, of Old Hickory, Tenn., an eighth-grader at Donelson Christian Academy in Nashville, was a key member of a church group that traveled to southern Mississippi to help repair and restore homes, yards and a church devastated by Hurricane Katrina. When it was suggested that Jessica's church youth group assist hurricane victims in Pearlington, Miss., "I just knew that I had to go," Jessica said. But she was unprepared for the devastation she found there. "The area was utterly destroyed. Everywhere you looked, there were little pieces of life, broken and rusted on the ground," she said.
Jessica and her fellow group members set to work picking up trash, cleaning yards and trying to salvage items worth saving. Jessica spent hours scrubbing rust and dirt off of valuable china. In addition, she and her group endured bugs and heat to put up drywall in ravaged houses and apply paint primer to walls. They also cleared land and laid the foundation for a new church, and began the rebuilding process. "We worked so incredibly hard," said Jessica. "No one deserves to have their dreams ripped out from under them. I wanted to do everything I could to restore normal life, if not better life, to these people."