Northwest DC

Family, Community Help DC Student Head Off to College 6 Years After Losing His Mother

Devontae Gliss was 12 years old when he heard the shots that killed his mother in Northwest D.C. Today, he's getting ready to attend Morgan State University with an entire community behind him

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Six years after a local student’s mother was shot and killed in D.C., his family and community gathered once more to wish him well at college after making sure tragedy didn’t stop his success. 

Devontae Gliss, now 18 years old, is heading off to study computer science at Morgan State University. 

His goal is to “make a difference, [and] be able to help people like people helped me when I was growing up,” he said. 

Gliss refers to the network of people who helped him after his mother, Tamara Gliss, was shot and killed in 2015. She was at a Memorial Day cookout in Northwest D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood when she was hit by a stray bullet. 

Gliss was 12 years old and playing basketball nearby when he heard the shots. 

Now he wears a necklace with their picture around his neck every day. 

“She always pushed me to, you know, be me and never change for nobody. So, I’m just living her legacy, doing what I gotta do to make sure she has a smile on her face while she's up there,” he said. 

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Gliss’ grandmother, Sandra, made sure he stayed on the right track. Saturday, she organized an effort to collect items for his dorm room, and said her daughter would be so proud.

“Tamara would be like -- aw man, she would be busting for joy,” Sandra Gliss said. “She would be partying.”

This day may not have come without the support Gliss received, not just from family, but from the wider community.

The people who showed up to congratulate and wish him luck in the future included his elementary school teacher the year his mom was murdered. 

“This is fairly emotional, and we’re really happy that he’s made it this far and he’s going off to college,” Elizabeth Alexander said. 

Other community leaders, including Thennie Freeman, also stayed close to make sure Gliss always had what he needed. 

“We would never be able to replace his mother’s love, but just [let] him know that we did not forget about you,” Freeman said.

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