This is the fifth in our series of stories celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of youth in our community. These inspirational young adults are enriching our lives with their passion and commitment to the betterment of society.
When Tessa was in Grade 6, she wrote herself a letter promising to devote her life to environmental advocacy. Six years later, it’s evident she has remained true to her word. In everything she does, Tessa strives to continue, in her own words, “helping to educate global citizens about ecological issues and helping conserve the environment in any way possible in order to ensure a future for coming generations”. Now entering her first year at Lester B. Pearson United World College, a 2 year pre-university college offering the International Baccalaureate , Tessa will continue her studies surrounded by students from all over the world.
Tessa was born in Boulder, Colorado and moved to Victoria with her family when she was very young. Her education began at St. Margaret’s School. Once middle school started in grade 6 she moved to St. Michaels University School. While she has excelled academically (97% average), her extracurricular activities and pursuits outside of school have enriched her education, as well as the education of those around her. At just 17, Tessa boasts a resume that belies her age.
Tessa has a sense of clarity and purpose in life. She has set a variety of achievable goals for her future. And she even started researching universities when she was in Grade 7. Tessa plans to complete post secondary education, focusing on political science, environmental science and international development, with a view to get “my dream job working within the United Nations Environmental Program by the time I am 35”.
Tessa credits her parents with helping her develop her connection to nature and love for the outdoors. She has enjoyed camping and hiking with her family for as long as she can remember. And she loves being near the water and cannot imagine living away from the ocean.
In 2012, Tessa traveled to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro as a youth representative of Canadian Civil Society. There, she participated with We Canada and contributed to a report called “The Future We Want”. Tessa was profoundly affected by the reaction of delegates when she told them she was Canadian. She says “To be honest, I was embarrassed to be Canadian”. I understand her response. Canada once held an impeccable reputation for being brokers of international deals on the environment. Sadly, Canada’s reputation is now one of breakers of international deals.
Noting the tremendous impact it had on her, Tessa vividly recalls watching An Inconvenient Truth when she was in Grade 5 . After finishing grade 10, Tessa attended a Climate Reality Leader training event hosted by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in Chicago, Illinois. She’s since given presentations on the causes and consequences of, as well as the solutions to, global warming; presenting to diverse audiences, including her school and a PowerShiftBC conference.
At the end of 2013, Tessa traveled to Antarctica as one of 72 students selected in the Students on Ice 2013/2014 scientific expedition. This 2 week expedition was a transformational experience for Tessa. It completely drained Tessa’s savings that she had been contributing to since she was 7 years old, but “it was worth every penny”. The students were joined by world-renowned educators, professors, activists and historians who provided a very unique learning experience – one that Tessa will never forget.
In February 2014, Tessa was part of a group of students who organized the “Defend Our Future” day of action in British Columbia. Meetings were arranged across British Columbia with twenty Members of the Legislative Assembly. Tessa spoke in a highly intelligent, thoughtful and passionate way about the need to uphold and commit to meeting British Columbia’s legislated 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets. She firmly believes that we all need to hold the government accountable to the commitments that they have made.
At 17, I may not be old enough to vote, but I still feel it is of paramount importance to convey my dissatisfaction with our government’s blatant disregard for these legally binding targets. Policy decisions made today will undoubtedly have an effect on my life—both in the short and the long-term—and with this at the forefront of my mind, I stand in defense of my future”
These are Tessa’s words. Words that I found to be so powerful that I embedded them at the start of my response to the 2014 Budget.
More recently, Tessa had another transformative experience in attending Unist’ot’en Camp of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples (Yinka Dini – People of this Earth) near Smithers, BC. The Unist’ot’en Clan is part of the hereditary chief system which has governed Wet’suwet’en lands for many centuries. The camp has been there for 5 years and its purpose is to occupy the land in the path of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.
For fun, Tessa enjoys weightlifting and says that she would like to compete in powerlifting some day. While she enjoys being with friends, she also values the time she spends alone in reflection. She is inspired by the likes of David and his daughter Severin Suzuki (whom she met at the conference in Rio), Bill McKibben and Elizabeth May.
I’m convinced that in the not too distant future there will be young men and women who will include Tessa on their list of people who have inspired them. In fact, she is already on my list. It’s youth like Tessa who fill me with optimism and a sense of hope for the future. If the six years since she wrote herself the letter are any indication, I can only imagine the impact Tessa will have on our society in the years ahead.
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