Leading by example
When Tessa Cash showed up for the Bridgman Olympics her sophomore year, she was definitely a little more excited than anyone else.
Junior Nick Hogan, a friend of Cash, said that right then he knew there was something different about her. It was the first time the two would meet, and Hogan said they hit it off from the start.
“Anyone who knows Tessa knows she is very active and she’s rambunctious,” Hogan said. “She has so much energy that we just became friends right away.”
Cash, an education major and now a senior, has made her mark around campus by her involvement in numerous activities.
It’s not just the amount of activities she’s in, but the variety, too. Among other things, Cash is a resident assistant in Bridgman Hall, a Campus Ambassador, member of Gospel Choir and instructor for Two to Tango.
“I think that she has really diverse interests,” Hogan said. “She likes to take responsibility and see change. She likes to help others.”
Dr. Dale Taylor, advisor to Cash for Gospel Choir and Two to Tango, said he sees many good qualities in Cash, especially great leadership.
“She’s very social and wants to get to know people and to help people learn things and share the joy of living that she enjoys,” Taylor said. “I think it’s just wonderful.”
Brought to tears
The group was performing a song a capella while Cash and other participants walked around the track. She said the music really struck something in her.
“I was walking up there and balling my eyes out. They just really reach out to your soul – pull it out of you practically,” Cash said. “So, I decided I had to join after that.”
Cash had been in UW-Eau Claire’s Women’s Chorus her freshman year, but said she had never sung gospel music in an organized setting before.
As soon as Cash joined, Taylor was pleased with what he saw.
“I liked her; I thought she was outgoing and intelligent and willing to take leadership,” he said.
Taylor said Cash has been a great addition to Gospel Choir and that she is always willing to participate in all of their activities, especially performances.
“She’s willing to take a leadership role or to just join in with the group and do what needs to be done to get a performance ready,” Taylor said.
Cash said her favorite part is just being involved. She says they have a prayer session every semester and that they also have a retreat.
“We’ll go to some random rural town where one of our members is the member of the church there,” Cash said. “And we’ll perform for their church – it’s definitely a good time.”
Overall, Taylor says Cash helps the Gospel Choir the most just by providing her presence. He said that it isn’t uncommon for members to show up at rehearsals but to not follow through and show up at the performances.
With Cash, he said, this is not the case.
“Tessa is very dependable because she is there and lending her voice,” Taylor said. “She always has a smile and is always positive and encouraging people and being very supportive of the organization, as well as individual members.”
Singing gospel music isn’t the only type of performance art Cash enjoys.
Cash said she has always loved dancing but never really had any formal lessons before college. In high school, she joined the cheerleading team and one of her friends from the team came to Eau Claire and was involved in Two to Tango.
As a freshman she began by just taking lessons, but after a year and a half of practice she decided to become an instructor. Being an education major, she thought it would be a great way to help her work on her skills.
Taylor said the skills she has learned in the classroom about teaching give her a unique advantage as an instructor. He said when most people begin teaching they have trouble figuring out how quickly to move, and how much content to fit in.
“You can’t throw a lot of information at students all at once and expect them to get it, you need to piece it out,” Taylor said. “But if you piece it too finely then students get bored and want to move on.
“Hitting that happy medium is something she is learning to do, and learning to do it very well.”
Cash says on top of gaining valuable skills, she really just likes what she’s doing. She pointed out that all of the students who are involved are volunteers.
“We just do it because we love dance,” Cash said. “We kind of get our benefit from learning the dances and becoming better dancers.”
Making her mark
Around the same time Cash became an instructor for Two to Tango, she also applied to become a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary.
NRHH “is a network of the top 1% of student leaders living on campuses across the globe,” according to their website.
Hogan, now an NRHH alumnus, said members of the group do numerous things around campus, which was just another opportunity for Cash to excel as a leader.
Hogan said he thought Cash was an ideal member for NRHH.
Cash was admitted to the group after applying and said the biggest reason she enjoys being in NRHH is because it allows her to help others.
“We plan leadership retreats for people around campus. We just try to teach others how to be leaders and how to be active around campus,” Cash said. “And be active leaders ourselves in doing so.”
Experience gained from NRHH and her other activities encouraged her to apply to be an RA before her junior year. It is now her third semester doing so in Bridgman Hall, and she hasn’t thought twice about her decision to become one.
“I thought it was really fun just being able to plan events and hang out with people, Cash said. “It also allows me to be active on campus. I hate just sitting still, I have to be doing something.”
In the future
Following this school year, the next step in Cash’s education degree is student teaching.
Cash said she would love to do this abroad through the Global Student Teaching Program. She said she doesn’t know for sure where she is going yet, because she is still in the application process, but that she is really excited regardless.
Her degree will allow her to teach from grade school to early adolescent stages, and she said her hope is to teach middle school students. She said she is motivated by the thought of helping these kids through what she referred to as their “awkward stage.”
“I would just like to be a good influence on my students no matter what grade I’m teaching,” Cash said. “That’s my goal, to help them be themselves and be comfortable enough with themselves so that they can have fun and actually learn.”
Taylor, a former professor, said that if he had children in school he would absolutely want them in her class. He said this because she learns incredibly quickly and he thinks she has the ability to get across to anyone.
“I’ve seen her relate to both adults in term of faculty and parents and things like that,” Cash said. “I’ve also seen her relate to students, freshmen through seniors. She is very much at home and very comfortable with all of these groups. I think she has a very bright future.”