Jessee Steele

Duke University
Class of 2023

Improving the lives of people in the Appalachian region.

Jessee is a leader unafraid to chart a new, more positive path for himself and others. Growing up in the Appalachian community of Bryson City, food security was a big problem for Jessee and his family, leading him to struggle with his weight and self-esteem. After moving into his residential high school, Jessee began volunteering with The Food Ark to engineer and donate hydroponics systems to food insecure counties. Jessee continues to research why government support systems such as food stamps are ineffective and how systems can benefit from a greater connection with the populations they serve. In addtion to food, NCSSM also offered Jessee the chance to explore different creative outlets, leading him to join Bailamos: Latin Dance. Through learning to dance, Jessee was able to overcome his body insecurity.

While in Durham, Jessee has been conducting environmental ecology research at Duke under Dr. Stuart Pimm.. After experiencing a lackluster Art Club his first year at NCSSM, Jessee decided to take on the revival of the club himself—his efforts increased memberships five-fold and effectively balanced the STEM-focused curriculum with creativity. Taking it a step further, Jessee founded an online Art Club program to provide students from other North Carolina schools an art education they would otherwise miss.

Leadership:

  • Duke’s Nasher Teen Council Chair
  • Art Club President
  • Native American Cultures Club Co-President
  • Bailamos: Latin Dance Co-Captain
  • Student Ambassador for NCSSM
  • The Food Ark Executive Chair and Head of Garden
  • Jigsaw Gay-Straight Alliance Founder
  • Indoor Track Team Captain
  • National History Day Mentor