Jessica Tegge

Jessica Tegge dove into research during her sophomore year at NKU, and she hasn’t stopped to look back. The environmental science student (and track and field student-athlete) with a minor in biology pulled soil samples after the region’s annual Reforest NKY planting event to measure how mass plantings work. She diverted trash at the Flying Pig Marathon from already-full landfills. And she serves on the advisory board for NKU’s Ecological Stewardship Institute.

But her fondest memory happened at Gorman Heritage Farm, where she developed an environmental education curriculum for school-aged children.

“It was the greatest job ever. I was given an opportunity to leave an impression on people of all ages and use my education to showcase the beauty of the natural world—and give them reasons to protect it,” she says.

Each day was a new adventure for Jessica, but she’ll never forget the day she taught a group of 7-10-year-olds about worms and soil health. Jessica staged a worm race, during which all the children yelled and cheered for their worms—except one little girl. After some coaxing (and a worm-naming ceremony), she could play with worms and was later found digging in the dirt. “She became fearless. I was reminded of how important my job truly was.”

Jessica hopes to continue making a difference—particularly with young girls.

“Children are so honest in what they love but begin to shy away because of various pressures they experience while growing up. Unfortunately, young girls are hit the hardest,” she says. “If we limit our girls, we limit science advancements and medical breakthroughs and technology that could save millions of lives.”