Senior Spotlight: Tessa Mendez-Leal

  • Student Life
Emily Dolan
Tessa Mendez-Leal

Tessa Mendez-Leal started at Sage Ridge in 5th grade, and she remembers younger versions of classmates who will be graduating alongside her. “We were all pretty wacky,” she recalls. Among some of her favorite early experiences were the 7th grade Outdoor Education trip with the freezing lake, playing dodgeball in PE, making cookies in class in 5th grade, and a special guest teacher in 6th grade who taught microbiology with passion. 

Tessa found herself branching out and trying new opportunities in middle school. She started playing basketball in 7th grade and continued competing with Sage Ridge for several years. She was also drawn into the tech side of theatre when Paul Kilbourn, who was the sound director for Sage Ridge shows, asked her to give it a try. She trained with him through the production of "Jekyll and Hyde," and then Tessa became the sound director in 9th grade for "Little Shop of Horrors" and in 10th grade for "Mamma Mia."

Being drawn into new experiences at Sage Ridge is a theme in Tessa’s journey. She “accidentally” joined the robotics team when Dr. Von Nagy urged her to speak to a team member. “He knew I was interested but at the time too shy to take initiative,” Tessa remembers, “so he nudged me a bit.”  She competed with award-winning Team Incognito for two years as their builder and creative director. Mr. Kuehn remembers teaching Tessa in a Sage Session class on drones, during which Tessa and her partner created an epic drone video of a snow battle between two magicians, complete with some very impressive special effects. "The amount of effort Tessa pours into something she is passionate about is very inspiring," he says. 

Tessa continued exploring creative options at Sage Ridge, becoming heavily involved with media arts, including the publication of "The Ridge" and the yearbook. In the spring of her junior year, she stepped out of her comfort zone and stunned the audience in the Great Space by singing “Valerie” by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse at Coffee House with her soulful voice. Her performance had the whole school bopping and whooping!

While Tessa wants to study something along the lines of computer graphics and animation, she has been drawn into history because of her classroom experience with Mr. Eads. She enjoys the way he makes history relevant to current life and “challenges you to think about your actions both in and outside of the classroom.” When asked about Tessa, Mr. Eads shares that she “has a big heart and is very thoughtful of others’ feelings. Despite her shy nature, Tessa has been one of the spokespersons for her class.”

Tessa spent most of her senior year in a Zoom classroom, which had its challenges. She is proud of the perseverance she and fellow distance learners have shown, and she is grateful for the support of faculty and peers. It has been a pleasure having her back on campus in the final weeks of her senior year. The world beyond Sage Ridge will have a chance to enjoy Tessa’s creative mind soon enough!

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