Pakiusap kunin ang lahatsaiyong mga bulsa.
Loosely translated, that’s “Please take everything out of your pockets” in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. It’s something you might overhear Supervisory TSA Officer Jesselle Potter say as she helps a Filipino passenger with a language barrier through a busy security checkpoint at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
“I am fluent in Tagalog, and I speak one of the many local dialects,” said Potter.
She’s also a subject matter expert at being adaptive and resilient — life skills she brings to the job. Having emigrated with her mother from the Philippines to California at the age of 12, Potter views diversity as an asset and a strength.
This month, as we recognize the history and culture of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and their contributions to our country, we spotlight Potter, a Filipino American. Potter stands out as an asset to IAH and serves the agency with integrity, respect and commitment – TSA’s core values.
The diverse group of mission-bound officers serving people from countless walks of life is one of the reasons her TSA career is appealing to Potter. She was similarly attracted to the military, serving in the Army National Guard for five years.
Awarded Soldier of the Year by the North Dakota National Guard in 2004, Potter points out the clear connection between the two careers — serving the American people and keeping the country safe.
While serving in the military, Potter became a naturalized citizen in 2005 and looks back on the tough process as an accomplishment.
“The day I lifted my hand and took the oath was the day I became a citizen of the greatest country in the world,” said Potter.
Potter doesn’t fight change, but rather seeks out and tackles new challenges with enthusiasm. The long list of collateral duty assignments she held while working at Oregon’s Rogue Valley International Medford Airport (MFR) is proof of her can-do spirit and included scheduling, payroll, recruiting, hiring, purchasing and logistics for MFR and two other spoke airports.
She’s completed the TSA Associate Program and has been a part of covert testing throughout the country.
Adaptability in the face of change is a strength Potter brings to everything she does. As for her supervisory responsibilities on the checkpoint, she anticipates challenges and drives results every day.
“Change is a way of life on the checkpoint,” said Potter. “I make sure I have enough staffing to run all the lanes and not have wait times or passenger complaints.”
The edible language of culture
Food is a universal need, but preparing native dishes with fresh, local ingredients while observing family cooking traditions is a unique and joyful expression of culture.
Potter misses authentically prepared Filipino dishes, but does her part at keeping the tradition alive. She enjoys cooking adobe (chicken marinated and cooked in soy sauce and vinegar) and pancit (similar to Chinese lo mein) for her family. She keeps the freezer stocked so she’ll never be caught without her favorite foods.
“The best memories I have of the Philippines were the Christmases celebrated with my family,” recalled Potter. “I remember going to my grandmother’s house on Noche Buena [Christmas Eve] and spending the night with my family from all over the Philippines.
“I remember we’d always have a lechon (roast pig), different fresh seafood from my grandmother’s fish ponds, and for desserts, we usually have bibingka (baked rice cake) and suman (glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk wrapped in banana leaves).”
What I do matters
I support TSA’s mission and culture by being the best leader I can be and by being committed to my job and my officers. I proactively ensure all operational requirements do not fall below levels that could compromise missions.
My commitment to the security process reflects my resolve in doing things the right way with no shortcuts. I set high standards for others to follow, but I also show compassion and grace during times when the mark is missed.
During my early days with TSA, I was fortunate enough to have leadership who saw my potential and mentored me. I was given every opportunity to progress and make an impact, and now that I’m in a leadership position, I try to do the same for other officers.
My proudest achievements in my TSA career are when officers I have mentored get promoted and reach out to me to tell me that they appreciate everything I have done for them.
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs