The daughter of “campesinos,” or farmers, Juana Rosas grew up in a small village in Mexico called Zambrano, Guanajuato. In 1995 her family migrated to the United States, working as farmworkers throughout Arizona and California. She grew up packing oranges, grapes, peaches, lemons, and other fruits with her family and learned to love the land. Her parents eventually settled down in Orange Cove California, a small rural community in Fresno County.
Coming from a rural village in Mexico with only three classrooms, Juana recognized the value of education and as a child developed a passion for learning. She dreamt of one day being able to help the environment after seeing rivers polluted by pesticides and trash and she understood that her community needed much more education and resources to do more sustainable farming. Juana’s daily inspiration has been her parents, who tirelessly got up at 5 am every day to work in the fields. Their perseverance inspired her to attain a higher education which essentially paved the way for a job at the USDA Forest Service.
What do you do in the Forest Service and when did you start working here?
I was introduced to the Forest Service by the Central California Consortium and their Generation Green Program in the summer of 2000. I also participated at the Camp Smokey leadership camp. During that time, I was not fluent in English, and this opportunity helped me better my proficiency, and also learn the importance of recreation and its impact on our local community. It opened my eyes to a world of opportunity in natural resources careers.
After graduating from college, I was hired as the Rural Coordinator for the Generation Green Program; my first permanent position with the Forest Service. I loved the fact that I was able to help youth like me to succeed and obtain careers in natural resources and educate our communities about the importance of public lands.
In my current role as the Partnership Coordinator for the Carson National Forest in New Mexico, I take pride in creating transformational relationships with non-profit and for-profit partners, including youth and parents in local communities. I love building relationships and a community of resources that can help us work together to co-manage our resources transparently.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I enjoy providing our youth the opportunity to backpack in the wilderness where they don’t have to watch over their shoulder for gun shots. Wilderness is a place where youth can heal traumas and feel free. Throughout these years, I have been able to reach around 1,300 diverse and underserved youth, establish long-term relationships and exposed them to stewardship and love for natural resources.
How has your education, background, or personal experiences prepared you for the work that you do now?
In December 2016, I got the opportunity of a life time to work for El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. It was my dream job to work in the rain forest and be able to help a community similar to mine. My knowledge of Latin America, experience as a Latina, and a fluent Spanish speaker, made it easy for me embrace the culture and understand the barriers local communities in Puerto Rico face.
My parent’s teachings and persistence were crucial on the evening of September 16, 2017 when Hurricane Maria devastated much of Puerto Rico. What surrounded me in the storm’s aftermath might have discouraged some people, but I never experienced a stronger desire to help. I will never forget the long silence after the hurricane stripped the forest of its beauty, and how desperate the people were for assistance and work. I was proud to be a part of the Forest Service family when I saw the forest supervisor host a community meeting to share information, hear concerns and provide job opportunities. More than 1,000 people showed up wanting to know what had happened to Yokahu (El Yunque in Taino). I quickly learned resilience from my brothers and sisters on the island.
Describe a recent, current, or upcoming project that you’re currently working on.
This summer, I had the pleasure of co-coordinating the Acequia Inventory Project here on the Carson National Forest. This project not only provided seven underserved youth with summer jobs, but also with the opportunity to learn about their heritage and the Acequia system’s importance. The program succeeded in part because of the eight partners and collaboration of the Acequia and community organizations. The entire forest saw firsthand how a youth engagement program can positively transform our youth.
How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?
I believe it is important to invest in a diverse workforce that represents the communities we serve. Coming from a background where I learned about public lands later in my life, I see the great need for outreach to our underserved communities to better serve future generations. One way we can do this is by engaging local youth and local communities.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?
I would recommend to all people interested in a career in public lands to volunteer and apply for summer opportunities so they can explore the field they would like to pursue. This will help them gain professional development and career experience. There are also non-traditional opportunities such as the Resource Assistant Program that offer opportunities to become eligible for non-competitive hiring and receive a two-year certificate of eligibility.
What do you like to do for fun in your free time?
At the age of 25, I participated in my first backpacking experience as a group leader for Wildlink. I guided 10 students through the backcountry of Yosemite National Park. Since then, backpacking has been one of the things I love to do. I’m now trying to introduce my own small family to the beauty of the outdoors. For now, we are exploring the forest on day hikes, but we are working up to a family backpacking trip one day. I love spending time with my fiancé, and my two boys, they are my world.