Jesse Ray Beard was a troubled youth who frequently found himself in mounds of trouble. It wasn’t until he faced attempted murder of a white classmate in the Deep South to change his life.
Beard, now 18-years-old, is currently interning at a New York law firm before his final year at Canterbury HIgh School, a Connecticut prep school where he is said to be highly revered, reports CNN.
“I didn’t change the way I act. I didn’t do nothing different. It was just that I was at Canterbury instead of Jena,” he said. “It was like Jena was out to get me — and not just me, but other people, too.”
Although the Jena 6 controversy that took place in a small Lousiana town, it was just what needed to happen in order for Beard to have a chance to turn a new leaf.
In January 2008, Alan Howard met Beard, the youngest of the Jena 6 teens, and began defending him a lawsuit filed by a teen who was severely beaten.
The incident took its course in Jena High School of Louisiana inciting a tone of racial divide among the students for months. It escalated when a school arson and nooses hung from a tree on campus.
In September of 2007, thousands of protestors took to the streets backing the accused teens under the notion they ere treated harshly because they were black.
Howard reacalled his first impression of the Beard, he said he had “tremendous character, tremendous resilience and tremendous potential.” In fact he was so impressed with the young teen, he invited him to live with his family in New England.
Beard said his toughest adjustment moving form a small town in Louisiana, to a big city just about an hour north of New York City.
“Where I’m from in Jena, I think the only time it snowed is when I was 6, and it was like 1 inch.”
Beard is prone to the same gaffes as any teenager, Jessie said, giggling as she recalled a time he replaced a box of snacks in the cabinet after finishing the last one. Her mother, Patti, left the box on his sneakers with a note: “Would you like more of these?”
“He’s just another member of the family,” Howard’s son Jessie said. “Now, when people ask me how many brothers I have, I say three, not two.”
Beard said despite his involvement in the Jena 6 case, he believes God put him through the tribulations to get to a healthier environment.
“I’m not glad it happened, but I’m glad I came to a good family,” he said.
Beard’s mother, Stella, is a “remarkable woman,” Howard said, but Beard didn’t have much supervision at home. Howard thought to himself in 2008, “It’s not just enough to keep the kid out of jail one time because the system is stacked against him.”
Five of the Jena Six had already made tracks — to Texas, to Georgia, to other parts of Louisiana — but Beard had nowhere to go. That he was on house arrest for another juvenile offense confounded matters.
“I promise you I will get you out of Jena, whatever it takes,” Howard told Beard.
“You promise me that you’ll hang in there, keep doing what you’re doing, going to school and keep out of trouble.”
Beard’s mother made “the ultimate sacrifice,” allowing Howard to pursue guardianship and ferry her son 1,500 miles to New England. She put aside Jena Six donations to help Howard pay Canterbury’s $40,000-a-year tuition, he said. She declined to be interviewed.
Beard, however, still defends his hometown.
“No, sir. There’s not more racists in Jena,” he said. “There’s racism everywhere. I just can’t blame it on Jena because I did get along with the white folks and they did like me.”