In the aftermath of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, Tessy Jacques found her purpose. Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where the earthquake occurred, Tessy witnessed the country’s greatest humanitarian need in its history. Without adequate emergency response resources, the country underwent a sweeping volunteer effort to rescue Tessy and three million others trapped under debris. Reflecting on the experience, she emphasizes the dedication of rescue volunteers. “The people, whose faces or names I don’t remember who stayed behind to help people trapped under buildings and cars, impacted me,” she says.
Determined to affect changes in emergency response procedures, Tessy sought ways to get involved in international development and humanitarian response programming. In 2016, she started by volunteering as a senior translator with Fondation Enfant Jesus, a Haitian-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). In that role, she translated legal forms and documents from French to English, including translation of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project reports. The following year, Tessy worked with La Planete des Petits, an NGO also based in Haiti. There, she led 50+ volunteers and created a summer camp curriculum for Haitian-native children. Through these experiences, Tessy gained field exposure to in-country development before coming to study at the University of South Florida (USF).
In 2018, she interned at KeyLime International, a development consulting firm in Washington, D.C. There, she worked on international development initiatives as a consultant intern and managed networks of development professionals across all levels of the field. Through her work in program design and implementation, she came away with a broader understanding of the strengths and shortcomings of development in-practice and a heightened curiosity about the policies that govern this work.
While at KeyLime, Tessy attended a conference on international economic policy, where she learned about the Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA). She was immediately drawn to the program’s objectives and applied for the Junior Summer Institute (JSI) at Princeton University with the help of the USF Office of National Scholarships. During JSI, Tessy learned the foundations of creating policies for lasting social change through courses focused on programming, writing, statistics, policy development, and quantitative data analysis. The fellowship included briefings in Washington, D.C., where Tessy presented an analysis of U.S. interests in transatlantic partnerships with Europe and strategies to mitigate potential partnership challenges after “Brexit” to Department of State officials.
Tessy explains: “Each summer, [PPIA] assembles a group of truly diverse individuals to learn about policy in a way that amplifies their respective voices – it was the main reason for my desire to learn about the policy field within that environment.”
After graduating from USF in May 2020 with a degree in International Studies and Philisophy, Tessy was named a finalist for the Princeton in Africa Fellowship (PiAF), the American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellowship, and the Schwarzman Scholars program. Currently, she works as a Program Associate for International Business & Technical Consultants, Inc. (IBTCI) at their Conflict, Crisis and Governance practice, supporting USAID-Somalia’s key development initiatives. In the future, Tessy plans to earn a master’s degree in Public Policy and continue work in international development focusing on conflict resolution and emergency response. Her long-term plans include returning to Haiti to serve in public office.
The Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute (JSI) is a seven-week intensive education program that prepares students from diverse backgrounds – including underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities and students from families with lower socio-economic status – for graduate study and careers in public policy. Participants come away from the institute with the tools to influence change through leadership, analysis, and diverse contributions to policies.