Ryan Tessman Talks Student Leadership

Ryan Tessman leads SFER UMN in his senior year

Ryan Tessman is a SFER student at the University of Minnesota, where he is majoring in political science. He grew up in Saint Paul, graduated from Central Senior High School and first connected with SFER while studying in California. After transferring to the University of Minnesota, he sought out the local chapter and became a student leader. He sat down with SFER MN staff to talk about what he hopes to achieve through SFER in his senior year as leader of the U of MN chapter.

Why is education important to you?

Education is important to me because it shapes the future of all students, including what opportunities they’ll have in life. It’s important that every student gets the chance to unlock his or her full potential. Through SFER, we advocate for students and promote equitable, quality educational experiences for everyone.

Going into your senior year, what are you most excited to work on through SFER?

I’m really excited to work on both of our Twin Cities campaigns: the literacy gap in Saint Paul and police in schools in Minneapolis. I’m interested to see what we’ll come up with around the literacy gap between students of color and White students; it’s such a huge and important issue. Police in schools is a continuation of our work last year at the legislature, so it’s a little more established. I’d like to see district-level policy change so that police receive more training in conflict resolution and have more respect and understanding for students. I expect I’ll be going to a lot of school board meetings. They’re a lot more interesting that I originally thought. When I go, I feel like I have a stake in the issues and I get to know the individual board members, what issues they prioritize, and how they interact with each other.

Ryan participating in SFER MN's policing youth march in 2017.

Ryan participating in SFER MN's policing youth march in 2017.

Have you gained any skills or confidence through SFER that will help you after you graduate?

I’ve definitely gotten more comfortable with public speaking, leading meetings, and canvassing. SFER has given me skills around talking with legislators and other leaders and has showed me different lenses to evaluate education issues more deeply.

Do you have a favorite memory from your work with SFER?

When I started with SFER in California, we helped found a charter school called Valiente College Prep. We worked with the founder and went out and talked to the community for months about where they would want a school and what students were most in need of a new school. It was really meaningful to be involved in. Then when I moved back to Minnesota, my first State Summit made me feel really welcome. I didn’t know anyone, but I felt so included. I did the SFER spirit finger thing, which is a part of SFER, and they were like, “Look! this guy knows us.” All of the other students were so nice. I felt really welcomed.