Tessa Jackson didn’t want to call the enclosed space near the heart of the Sequim Boys & Girls Club her office. After all, her title then was interim unit director. Instead, she named the room featuring several large windows The Shark Tank, after her favorite animal.
Jackson, who has a red-tailed shark at home, says she won’t get into a real shark tank with a real shark.
“I’m definitely obsessed from afar.”
The office’s name stuck, and so has she.
Jackson saw the interim removed from her unit director position at the Carroll C. Kendall Unit of the Boys & Girls Club in mid-September.
“There was a vision and direction with the club I wanted to be part of,” Jackson said.
“I love their smiling faces. I love that they can confide in me.
And I love that they know I love sharks.”
Born and raised in Sequim, Jackson has had various jobs over the years while raising three children with her husband Chris. She worked for a time with an insurance company and another stretch owning and operating a scrapbook store, taking time off at various points to stay home with her children.
About seven years ago she was encouraged to join the staff at the Boys & Girls Club, working the front desk for three years before advancing to other roles.
About eight months ago the club saw a change when unit director Dave Miller announced he was stepping down, and Jackson, then the program director, was moved into the interim role.
Soon after the announcement, the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“That was a struggle for them; no hugs, no high-fives,” Jackson said of the club’s regulars.
“I think we’ve been able to implement fun — safe fun. They seem to be be adapting better than we expected. It helps that we have a lot of patient, understanding staff.”
Jackson served in her interim role for months before interviewing for the full role in recent weeks.
“Basically, it was eight months of a working interview,” she said.
It was something Jackson said in the interviews that really impressed the hiring committee, noted Mary Budke, executive director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula: “I’m in it for the outcome, not the income.”
With a number of safety protocols in place, the Sequim club sees about 50 youths each day, spending time on computers for school lessons — about two hours before lunch and an hour after — with some physical education and art lessons and help from paraeducators at Helen Haller, mixed in with plenty of outside time as well, Jackson said.
That number will eventually grow as Sequim schools go back to in-person instruction, expected in mid-October.
Jackson lives with her husband in Port Angeles and considers both cities her “hometown.” Together they have one son in college and another a high school sophomore, as well as a daughter in fourth grade.
Jackson, who when Miller resigned in February called the longtime director not only a boss but mentor and role model, said he set good examples of what a unit director should do. Miller taught Jackson that finding out a youth’s mindset is as important as fixing any problem, she said. Sometimes that’s something as simple as finding out if that child is having a bad day or has something going on at home or didn’t get enough sleep.
And, of course, Jackson said, keeping the youngsters interested is key.
“Dave was all about fun,” she said. “That’s definitely a direction I’ll continue.”
For more about the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and the Carroll C. Kendall Unit, 400 W. Fir St., call 360-683-8095.