Michaela Hall is trying to get the most out of life and wants everyone around her to get the most out of life as well. The oldest child of 8, Michaela Hall isn’t shy on taking the lead on anything that comes her way. From a decision to leave home and seek a career to joining Job Corps and then the Forest Service, Hall knows how to embrace a challenge.
She’s grown professionally through several career positions and has recently stepped up to be founder and president of a Job Corps alumni group which helps empower underserved youth to change their lives. When opportunities come knocking, Michaela does what comes naturally and begins a new adventure.
Who is Michaela Hall?
I love discovering things that excite me, things that put a smile on my face and making sure I keep myself surrounded with those types of things, people and activities as much as I can. Whenever I have the chance, I want to make sure I can help someone else figure out what inspires them.
How did you begin your Forest Service career?
After completing my certificate program at Job Corps’ Transportation Communication Union advanced trade training, I completed several internships before interning with the Forest Service. I started as an intern in Conservation Education which in hindsight seems like the perfect place for a city girl. I realized how awesome the outdoors can be, especially working with young people, plus I also gained a greater appreciation for the Forest Service and how the agency assists communities like the one I grew up in.
Why were you interested in the Forest Service?
I was young and wanted to start living more independently, so when I was accepted for the Forest Service internship I took it, not knowing where this new journey would take me. I didn’t know anything about the Forest Service and my only connection to the outdoors and the Forest Service was through Smokey Bear. I didn’t know there was so much more in their mission. Once I got here, I fell in love with the agency. Actually, I fell in love first with the people I met who support our national forests and grasslands, then grew to appreciate and understand the agency’s conservation mission. The people motivated me to really try to figure out where I could best serve in the agency and where I could contribute the most.
What are your current responsibilities and challenges?
Currently, I serve as a workforce program specialist for the U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Staff. Working on new initiatives, you find that you run into challenges. As we see the number and intensity of fires increase around the country, we’re also trying to include more diversity in our fire lines. My role is to reach out to targeted groups of people and assist in creating more diverse fire training programs. Including a variety of backgrounds helps strengthen the composition of our workforce.
Working with Job Corps, we reach a greater diversity of students and potential employees including women and veterans, important groups that the agency wants to see more represented. I’ve worked with different programs like the Women in Wildland Fire Boot Camp on the Los Padres National Forest in California, to recruit women for fire training programs.
What do you like about working for the Forest Service as an agency?
I love the variety of service opportunities in the Forest Service. There are so many jobs, career paths, projects, programs, and work locations. That’s something I need to stay interested and motivated. I always need a challenge! I love learning new things and working with different people. We’re always trying to be innovative and think of new ideas. For example, the Diversity and Inclusion Coalition on Empowerment, a small group of Washington Office employees decided to host world café sessions to discuss important Forest Service issues. The group was immediately embraced by new members and it’s really taken off. Employees are participating in open conversations on sensitive workplace topics and we’re creating a better agency through dialogue and story-telling amongst ourselves. It demonstrates that you don’t have to be in an official leadership position to make a positive difference. Employees can be a leader from where they are.
What Job Corps Center did you attend?
I went to Potomac Job Corps in Washington D.C. and I sort of got there by accident. During my Job Corps entrance interview, the counselor asked me where I wanted to go and I picked the Blue Ridge Job Corps Center in Marion, Virginia. I was from Virginia Beach and thought that would be a nice center since it wasn’t too far from home. But my mom said “well why not go to Washington D.C. where you’ll get to see the nation’s capital and you may get to travel and you may just love it.” So I thought okay, I have nothing to lose and came to D.C.
I am a strong advocate for Job Corps. Job Corps provides a free education, and I’ve seen that if you put students in the right environment with the right resources and opportunities, they will surely blossom.
What college did you attend?
I received a degree from Bowie State University in sociology to learn about the world we live in and how we exist together. Plus, I wanted to take the least number of math courses possible!
How did you come up with the Federally Employed Job Corp Alumni Association?
Well, I call it a session gone right! Job Corps alumni in the Washington Office would always meet for lunch and hang out after work. And one day we were having lunch and talking about how we could improve our work experience and career paths.
From that conversation, we just decided to start an organization where at first it was to support each other, to share information and training opportunities. We wanted to uplift each other. The group has really expanded into a lot more, including reaching back to Job Corps to help current students, and reaching out to partners who can potentially help the Job Corps program.
We received the Secretary’s Award for our volunteer work with the Job Corps centers. We are also a recognized employee organization under USDA. We manage the Pay It Forward project, as part of the Fire and Aviation Management wildfire diversity program. As part of this program we train alumni to reach out to current Job Corps students so they are motivated to leverage relationships to build their skills and opportunities.
Who did you look up to when you were young? How did they influence your life?
A huge inspiration for me was superstar Whitney Houston! Growing up, I loved her voice. I thought she was so beautiful and so successful and I just knew I would be like Whitney! I just knew that I was going to be a world-famous singer. Her perseverance is an inspiration.
If you could have dinner with a few special people from history who would they be and what would you ask them?
I look back to my trip to South Africa and I’d have to say I’d love to have dinner with Nelson Mandela. He had such a remarkable story and was so inspiring to those around him. I would be interested in learning how he was able to forgive so many—forgive those people who betrayed him, those he worked all of his life to combat and overthrow. He had been in jail for all of those years for working against a system and the people who supported that system. After he was released from prison, to be able to work with those same people and to forgive in that way is momentous.