Dancer, actor, musician, singer, black belt, mathematician – there are many words that can be used to describe Jesse Rusche, senior at Columbia Falls High School.
For the past four years, she has shared her unique vision of life in classrooms, hallways and on the school stage, always with a dance in her footsteps. Soon, she will take that dancing spirit with her to Rhode Island, where she plans to study music and physics at Brown University in the fall.
“I love to dance all the time. I like to make a large group of people dance, ”she said. “Dancing makes life more fun.”
Rusche said she has been dancing to Fleetwood Mac tunes exclusively for the past five months, but has also expressed her love for Billie Holiday, Etta James, Joni Mitchell and Lady Gaga, among others.
Music has surrounded and shaped Rusche’s life from birth.
A violinist since the age of 4, Rusche began singing in a choir from a young age and was known to lend her voice to her father’s band at Doc Z’s Bar in her hometown of Wolf Point.
She still sings with her father and brother in their family band, GOC, but Rusche finds herself on a different stage more often these days.
“I live for the theater. My only real love is to be on stage, ”she said. “I love the theater and I love the feeling of bringing an audience into the story.”
After taking part in the annual production of Lewis and Clark’s story in elementary school, Rusche discovered she had a knack for acting and quickly landed the starring role in a local production of “Alice in Wonderland. wonders “before playing roles in” Xanadu “,” The Neverending Story “,” 12 Angry Men “,” The Wizard of Oz “and” Beauty and the Beast “.
AFTER SPENT the first years of her life at Wolf Point, Rusche and her family moved to Columbia Falls when she was 8 years old. Every day she and her family drove to the American Karate Academy and at age 9 decided to fulfill her dream of training to be a “Power Ranger”.
She may not have reached the rank of Master Morpher, but after countless hours of training and dedication, Rusche was awarded the rank of Black Belt on May 4, 2019.
“I think karate has helped me see life through a more balanced lens. It helps me to be satisfied and also aware of everything that is going on around me, ”she said. “Yes, there are a lot of physical aspects, but I think the mental lessons in karate have helped me the most.”
The lessons learned on her way to her black belt also helped Rusche cope as she struggled with depression and anxiety in high school.
“It has been a long and difficult process for me and I’m sure there are many others who are fighting this battle who don’t even know what they are dealing with,” Rusche said. “I was lucky to have a very strong support system so I was lucky to find that balance. Life doesn’t have to be stressful. You just have to find the balance. “
Rusche used the lessons learned from her struggle to help her find balance as she participated in a number of different activities and helped lead several student organizations while in high school.
As a freshman, Rusche was the co-founder of the Columbia Falls Conservation Crew, an organization that promotes sustainability both in high school and in the community. While there, the organization started a school plastic and aluminum recycling program, helped the school cafeteria stop using polystyrene trays, and started a project. composting.
Rusche is also president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance at school and was a co-founder of the county-wide Flathead LGBT + Youth organization.
Rusche said she is proud of the changes she has seen during her four years at Columbia Falls High School.
“I have seen it become a very nice safe space for a lot of people where people feel accepted or help others to feel accepted. It’s a great place to come together to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness, ”she said. “During my time here, I saw high school become much more inclusive. I think we are making a lot of progress in making this place a better place for everyone, which is really amazing. We are seeing more and more people interested in and celebrating the arts. People can express themselves more and be supported in doing so. I think it’s a beautiful thing.
While Rusche will miss the charm of the small town of Columbia Falls as she moves to Providence (a town of 180,000), she is ready for the next big adventure of her life and leaves a piece of advice to her comrades.
“If you want to dance, you should dance. If you want to sing, you should sing. If you just want to sit down and read a book, then do it, ”she said. “We all want to be able to do the things we want to do. If you feel embarrassed about it, remember that everyone feels that way too. Why not be the person who helps others to get rid of this insecurity? “
Journalist Jeremy Weber can be reached at 758-4446 or [email protected]