role model & inspiration: Jessa Challa

Kelsey May | September 27th, 2017

I recently interviewed Jessa Challa, recent Aquinas College grad, artist, and mapmaker extraordinaire.


What advice do you have for people seeking to grow?

I just got this book, Kiki Palmer’s I Don’t Belong to You. It’s inspired me to think for myself first and not care about what other people think.


When do you feel most confident?

I always feel the best when I’ve accomplished something. Recently, that was on my graduation day. We were a really close group; we still go out for pizza and beer [together]!


Tell me more about your art!

My grandma’s an artist. I always did watercolors with my grandma, and then I’ve recently started doing acrylics.


Jessa’s Self-Portrait in the style of Frida Kahlo





You have a lot of great friends and people in your life. How do you suggest creating a positive network?

Reach out to your friends and role models. Kiki Palmer was a role model [growing up]. Now, instead of surrounding myself with beautiful people, I surround myself with role models. [Palmer] has videos where she talks about beauty and being yourself.

Also, devote yourself to work on relationships with people rather than [nursing] friendships with fake friends.

My friend, Taniah, will send me quotes, and I’ll forward them on social media because I want to share the confidence and share the advice.


What’s important to you?

Right now, my relationships with friends and family, self-love. I’m very much an activist so I’m learning and participating in different movements. I’m passionate about helping people realize there are opportunities out there for them.

I’m working with the internship coordinator at Aquinas [to help other students find internships that work for them]. People don’t feel like they know about opportunities. It’s important in the Grand Rapids climate that local people – not out-of-state [candidates] – be hired.

On the Pushed Out NPR podcast, one of the guys was saying there’re no jobs downtown, and that’s a lot of people’s perspective on GR. I want people to know they’re meant to be here.


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