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Marcus Devoy, a nine-year-old fourth-grader at J Robert Hendricks Elementary School, 3400 W. Orange Grove Road, claps for a classmate's presentation on Dec. 21, 2017, in Tucson, Ariz. Devoy has demonstrated kindness and patience with his classmates, a trait he developed while living with his older sister who has epilepsy.

Editor's note: This is the first in our series about young Tucsonans who make us optimistic about the future. 

To increase epilepsy awareness among his football teammates, fourth-grader Marcus Devoy strung football-shaped beads on the purple-and-white bracelets his family makes.

The family has been beading and handing out these bracelets in honor of Marcus’ sister Jade Devoy for a few years now. Jade, 13, is at the cognitive level of a 7- or 8-year-old, Marcus’ mom Jessica Devoy said.

Jade’s diagnosis includes epilepsy and intellectual disability, but her epilepsy is hard to control, Jessica said.

She added that Marcus, the youngest of three, often acts like the older brother to his sister.

He helps her with homework and making her lunch. When she has seizures, he doesn’t panic. And his teachers see the result of that.

“He’s very kind in the sense that if he knows the answer, he’ll say ‘Let’s figure it out together,’” his fourth-grade teacher Lucy Popson said. “He might be tapping his leg because he knows, but he doesn’t rush his buddy. He has that patience. And he’s a good teacher, too.”

What he does:

At J. Robert Hendricks Elementary School, Marcus, 9, rakes in the awards — Student of the Month, Peer Appreciation, Gold Honor Roll.

Popson said he is the only student in her class who participates in the gifted education program, Center for Academically Talented Students (C.A.T.S.). That class meets about once a week, often doing creative projects and fun field trips. But Marcus never brags to his classmates, Popson said.

He has also done presentations on epilepsy for his third and fourth grade classes, plus his C.A.T.S. class.

He wants to spread awareness about the neurological disorder so people know “it’s OK to be different,” he said.

For several years before Jade left Hendricks for middle school, Marcus and his family encouraged the whole school to wear purple — the color affiliated with epilepsy awareness — on a designated day. Many participated.

When Marcus decided to make bracelets for his football team, he knew he needed to make the purple-and-white bracelets more appealing for his teammates. That’s why he incorporated beads shaped like footballs and in their team colors.

He has been playing football for about four years with the Marana Broncos through the Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation and has won Scholastic Awards two years in a row.

Why it matters:

Popson said she pairs stronger students like Marcus with kids who might need a bit more help.

At home, Marcus has learned to be patient with kids who may have special needs or different learning styles.

“I’m patient with (Jade) because I know it’s hard for her to understand sometimes,” he said. “I understand other kids because I’m so used to being around Jade.”

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Marcus Devoy, center, a nine-year-old fourth-grader at J Robert Hendricks Elementary School, 3400 W. Orange Grove Road, works with classmates on Dec. 21, 2017, in Tucson, Ariz. Devoy has demonstrated kindness and patience with his classmates, a trait he developed while living with his older sister who has epilepsy.

He gets that misunderstanding isn’t on purpose. Sometimes it can’t be helped.

That’s why he and his family are making bracelets and encouraging people to donate to or learn more through the Epilepsy Foundation of Arizona. Marcus wants other kids to understand what he has learned.

How he would encourage his peers:

“Other kids should be kind because when you say something mean to a person, it gets them down,” he said. “‘I don’t want to hang out with you or play with you or you can’t join us,’ — it gets a person down. And it’s just sad to see that, or it’s sad to be that person. So you should always to say nice things to people or be nice to people because then they feel better inside.”

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@tucson.com or 573-4357. On Twitter: @JohannaWillett