Biking 250 miles over the course of five days, former Andover Girls Soccer and Lacrosse member Tessa Peterson ’15 raised money for climate justice and environmental sustainability. Peterson completed her Climate Ride in October before coming to campus to live as a house counselor in Adams Hall.
For Peterson, this Climate Ride was also a way for her to spend time with her mother, Katrina Peterson ’82, who is an experienced Climate Rider. After hearing about her mother’s experiences, Peterson decided to train for her own Climate Ride.
Peterson said, “I’ve seen [my mom] have a really good time by forming a community with other people who are passionate about the environment [while having] awesome adventures in these beautiful places that remind you why it’s important to protect the environment and to protect the public lands.”
Peterson had no prior experience in road biking and spent this past summer physically preparing for her ride. Although devastating wildfires in Western states ended up cutting her preparation short, Peterson enjoyed incorporating training into her everyday life and brought her bike with her as she traveled.
“There’s tons of times where I visited my sibling in Portland, Oregon and made sure to take a bike and then use it as a way of exploring that new place… Training-wise, I just want to be sure that I would be able to do the distance everyday. I think I got up to 55 miles in my training ride, then the smoke and wildfires in Colorado, in Oregon, and in Washington all made it really difficult to train or different parts in the summer because you couldn’t actually exercise outside,” said Peterson.
Peterson credits her passion for sport to her time at Andover, as her experiences on the soccer and lacrosse teams taught her valuable life lessons about perseverance and hard work.
Peterson said, “Andover definitely provided me with an athletic foundation that I think has been sustained… I always look back at those memories from Andover thinking there’s lots of times I did something that I didn’t know I was capable of or took on an unexpected challenge.”
According to Athletic Director and Andover Girls Soccer Head Coach Lisa Joel, Peterson was always a determined athlete at Andover and served as an inspiration on the Girls Soccer team.
Joel said, “She was an all-around great athlete. She certainly played a lot of soccer, but what was special was that she always gave 150 percent to everything that she did and she’s the ultimate team player. She’s incredibly Non Sibi; her contributions to the team, she often knew, was being a role model in practice and pushing her teammates to be the best they could be.”
Through Andover’s curriculum, Peterson also learned about the negative impacts of climate disasters on disadvantaged groups, which then sparked her interests in climate justice and environmental sustainability.
Peterson said, “In my Senior year at Andover, I took a class called ‘Welcome to the Apocalypse,’ and that was the first time I was introduced to the idea that climate catastrophes disproportionality affect marginalized communities. After taking that class, I ended up studying Earth and Oceanographic Science at [Bowdoin College]. That was also a huge reason for me to do the Climate Ride as a scientist and an advocate of climate justice.”
As part of the Climate Ride, Peterson also worked on raising money for environmentally-focused beneficiary organizations.
Peterson said, “A huge part of the climate ride beyond the physical training was starting the fundraising early, and Climate Ride has really great tools for supporting its participants in fundraising. My fundraising goal was 3,000 dollars and over fundraising for many months I more than doubled that. I raised 6,500 dollars and of the 20-plus participants on the Utah ride, we raised over 100,000 dollars together.”
Peterson added, “So most of the time the money made by Climate Riders goes to beneficiary organizations… They also partner with organizations all over the country and the world that do bike coalitions, active travel advocacy, and then sustainability, climate justice, and tons of others. This year, because of the pandemic, the money is going directly to Climate Ride to keep that organization afloat which is really important because it’s one of the only organizations of its kind to be doing environmental philanthropy.”
According to Joel, Peterson has always been a selfless leader and her contributions through the Climate Ride reflects her compassion and aspirations to always help better the world.
“I think it’s just so consistent with who Tessa is. She understands that her actions and being a part of a team just have much bigger ramifications. So it’s not just about cycling, she’s doing something for a larger cause… [Similarly,] Tessa’s a Fulbright scholar and she’s going to go to Vietnam to go teach. I think if anyone epitomizes Non Sibi, it’s Tessa. Everything she does is for the greater good… It’s no small feat to bike across Utah and she has that physical and mental ability to do something like that.”
Joel added, “I just think that Tessa is an extraordinary young alum who made an impact when she was here. We had no doubt that she would continue to make an impact and I think she’s an inspiration.”
According to Peterson, she was able to accomplish this significant athletic endeavor because she was able to personally connect with the specific causes for which she was fundraising.
Peterson said, “One of the reasons why it was so effective was that I did have a personal connection to my mission and my reasons for being there… Having community engagement from all people who are from all walks of life and not just really world established is what meant something to me.”