Creating a Career Path: How Centennial Job Corps helped Jessica Johnson discover new talents

Where are they now? – Catching up with 2012 Corpsmember of the Year,
Jessica Johnson

Jessica receiving her award at The Corps Network 2012 National Conference in Washington, DC

Jessica Johnson, formerly of Centennial Job Corps of Idaho, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2012 for her commitment to service. Read below to find out what she's been up to since accepting her award, or find out more about Jessica and her Corps experience by reading her bio from our 2012 National Conference.

Jessica Johnson heard about the Centennial Job Corps from her grandfather. He helped construct the buildings of the Corps’ Nampa, Idaho campus and thought that Jessica – an ambitious high school graduate – might make an ideal Corpsmember. Jessica looked into the program and decided she might as well give it a try. Sure enough, Job Corps was the perfect fit for her.

Jessica started at Job Corps learning office administration skills through the organization’s Business and Finance Program. She was quickly recognized as a hard worker and a positive role model.  Her success in the business program allowed her the opportunity to also begin training for Centennial’s rigorous firefighting program.

“I thought the fire crew sounded pretty awesome, so I checked it out – and it was pretty awesome,” said Jessica.

Jessica earned a stellar reputation with the fire crew bosses and her peers. She was dispatched on every fire call as a result of her skill and reliability. After Jessica completed her service in the Idaho Corps in May 2010, she was accepted to Advanced Fire Management training with Schenck Job Corps CCC of North Carolina for the fall of 2010. Her excellent job performance at Schenck resulted in her recruitment by the Boise Regulars for a seasonal firefighting position in Boise National Forest.

“When I was on a crew here in Idaho I was the supply manger. I kept track of our inventory and whatnot,” said Jessica. “I also helped with basic operations and making sure things were done safely.”

After completing the 2011 fire season with the Boise Regulars, Jessica spent the winter at home helping her family with babysitting and chores. Jessica has always enjoyed looking after her four nieces and nephews. She spends most of her free time with them and is always conscious of setting a good example.

For the 2012 fire season, Jessica was hired to be part of a wild land firefighting crew in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest. During her time in Oregon, Jessica was able to open her FFT1 task book. The Fire Fighter Type One Task Book is a log kept by a wild land firefighter as he or she works towards becoming a Squad Boss. Jessica spent this past summer participating in Squad Boss training and leading small groups of firefighters in their assignments. She hopes to eventually become an official Squad Boss; a position that would put her in charge of about four to eight other firefighters.

“Squad Bosses are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the crew and making sure that whatever assignments you’ve been told to do, you and your crew accomplish those things,” said Jessica. 

Jessica’s goal is to find year-round employment with a Forest Service firefighting crew. However, she’s not impatient to find such a job. She plans to start looking for a permanent position in about two to three years. Until then she wants to continue gaining experience through seasonal wild land firefighting jobs.

“I want to make sure that I really know and understand the job that I’ll be doing,” said Jessica. “I want to be qualified for it and not just run around with a title that I shouldn’t have. I don’t want to jump into anything.”

Jessica currently lives at home with her family in Idaho and continues to help with the babysitting and other household jobs. She plans to get another firefighting position when the next fire season comes along in the spring and summer.

Jessica maintains contact with some of her peers from Centennial Job Corps’ firefighting program who have also pursued wild land firefighting jobs. She also keeps in touch with some of the Corps’ staff.

“The staff there was awesome and very helpful and really motivating,” said Jessica.

To other young people thinking about joining a Corps, Jessica says:

“Use everything to your benefit and realize that’s what the Corps is there for. If you have questions, just ask the staff. If you run across someone who you aren’t necessarily on the same page with, just try talking to different staff members. Remember that not everyone communicates in the same way. Do what you need to do and follow the rules even if they’re silly and just make the whole experience your own.”