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Hi! I'm Tessa. Born and raised in South Dakota, I called the Corn Palace City of Mitchell home. I was a high school All American gymnast and ran track for the Mitchell Kernels, continuing my hurdling and sprinting career at the University of South Dakota for the Coyotes, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science, and a Master of Arts degree in Communications. 

After battling an ongoing back injury for many years, I was forced to end my time running for the Coyotes after my sophomore year of college. Feeling unmotivated, unhealthy, and dejected, it was suggested to me I find a new competitive outlet. I decided to try pageantry, and the rest is history. 

Competing for Miss South Dakota, Miss America, Miss South Dakota USA, and now, Miss USA, has completely changed my life, and my health, for the better. Yes, there's a swimsuit competition, but it's so much more than just wearing a bikini onstage. This venture caused me to redevelop my passion for health, wellness, and exercise and take it to a different level. I was forced to take a hard look in the mirror, and at my lifestyle choices, and make some big changes for the better.

Going from feeling terrible about how I had let myself go, to winning swimsuit at Miss South Dakota 2013 was a very proud moment. Now, I work as a wellness coach helping others to find their health and be their best selves, too.

In addition to my pursuits in health and fitness, I work with my organization, Project Bookworm, to get kids excited about reading and provide them safe places and quality resources to improve their literacy. This, along with my work with English Second Language students and refugees, constitutes a large part of my heart and passions. I think I was put on this earth to be a teacher of sorts, and through my many different endeavors, now including my podcast, #FiercelyFemale, I find I am able to help others through the gifts I've been given. I believe that to whom much is given, much is required. I try to live by this each day.

Thanks for tagging along to my site, and I hope you learn a few things (and have a few laughs) along the way! 

XO, Tessa 

Photo by Brittany Elizabeth Images