Jessica Russell’s roots in Lincoln sports run deep

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Just like many LHS students, Jessica Russell took the Bridlemile-Sylvan route to Lincoln. Living alongside two younger brothers in competitive spirit, her parents strongly encouraged them to constantly try new sports and other various activities- even when it was apparent they didn’t have the specific skillset needed.

“It was a part of our family culture, it was expected,” says Russell of her involvement with athletics.

There is no doubt that she was heavily involved with sports. Throughout her four years at Lincoln, she played club volleyball, JV lacrosse, and earned Varsity letters in softball, track as a javelin thrower, and on a very competitive girls basketball team during her junior and senior years. Russell challenged herself to a juggling act of sports, and she is aware that perhaps she didn’t quite succeed completely in all she tried.

By attempting so many different things as a young adult, she recognizes the positive influence it had on her life.

“I think you need to force yourself to do something else not just for your job and for school, it adds new aspects to your life that you can only gain from experience,” she says.

Beyond sports, it wasn’t until she met with college counselors that she found her true passion of teaching and coaching. She applied to Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, a college notorious for its great teaching programs.

After five exceptional years at Trinity, she had her master’s degree and began teaching at a middle school in nearby San Antonio.

‘It was a very rough school. There was a lot of violence, and lot of the students were involved in gangs,” Russell says. “It was an experience I had just never really been exposed to before.”

Following her years teaching in San Antonio, Russell moved back to Portland. One of her first actions was to reach out to Lincoln in hopes of rejoining her old community. She said that she wanted to help athletes who are struggling with school, and was willing to work for no wage. Peyton Chapman, Lincoln’s principal, noticed her request and helped Russell find a job at Sellwood middle school.

Russell spent her next seven years teaching 6th grade block classes at Sellwood. Three years into her time at Sellwood, Russell took the head Coordinating role of AVID, as well as coaching track, cross country, volleyball, and basketball. She even helped organize wrestling. Even though her seven year journey was extremely exhausting, she couldn’t have asked for anymore excitement and experience from her position at Sellwood.

During a winter coaches meeting in the 2015-16 school year, Russell happened to run into Lincoln’s athletic director, Jeff Peeler. Peeler mentioned to Russell that he was not holding this position at Lincoln for much longer, and he needed someone fit for the job to replace him. This motivated Russell to apply, and before she knew it, she was Lincoln’s newest athletic director.

“It didn’t really seem like a reality at first. I never saw myself as someone who could work as a person of power in athletics as a woman because it’s just not seen in the world today,” Russell says.

Russell has loved her time at Lincoln for many reasons.

One of her favorite parts of the Lincoln culture are the people.

“Families are really helpful and great. They all look out for their kids, and even look out for each others’ kids.”

In addition, the student body is just as impressive in her eyes.

“We all expect a lot of each other. Students are willing to work extremely hard to accomplish things, and I really love being a part of that culture.”

Currently Russell holds herself accountable to communicate with every family possible.

“I want to make sure every kid who wants to play a sport is playing a sport, and I would love them to play more rather than less.”

She encourages students to never hesitate to stop by the athletic office for any reason, even if it’s just for a friendly conversation.

“I want every student to try something new, and while trying something new I am here to help them succeed.”