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Job Corps program steers Dajeanai Pennamon towards a Forest Service realty management career

Woman in FS uniform, outside
Special Uses Program Intern Dajeanai Pennamon, accompanied by Tongass National Forest Land Specialist Dave Rak, completes inspections of cabins and land use on the Pacific coastline on the Tongass National Forest, Wrangell, Alaska, on April 2, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo by Dave Rak.

COLORADO – Dajeanai Pennamon graduated from Lyndon B. Johnson Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center on August 15, 2019. On September 13, 2019, she began a one-year internship in Special Uses on the San Bernardino National Forest. Dajeanai’s career prospects now, as an LBJ graduate with a Public Land Corps certificate, are worlds away from the job opportunities she had before Job Corps when she lacked a high school diploma and struggled to find employment.

Every year, individuals and businesses submit applications requesting authorization for the use of national forests lands for a specific use such as water transmission, outfitting and guiding, telecommunications, road and utility rights-of ways, and photography. Currently there are over 77,000 special use authorizations on national forests and grasslands. 

In the spring of 2019, Dajeanai interned on the Tongass National Forest for a month and on the San Bernardino National Forest for two months. These two internship opportunities provided her with the necessary field work to graduate from LBJ’s two-year Special Uses Administrator training program. She worked with other LBJ interns to reduce the backlog of inspections and late fee invoices. In total, the Job Corps Special Uses interns helped to recover $250,000 of back-billing to the San Bernardino National Forest and complete Phase 1 of its inspection backlog.

“Dajeanai is a silent leader, who leads by example and a very smart young lady with a lot of potential,” says San Bernardino National Forest Public Services Staff Officer O’Dell Tucker. “We’re very excited about her returning and she will be instrumental in completing the annual billing process for special use permits for San Bernardino and neighboring national forests.”

In 2018, after attempting to get her GED twice on her own, Dajeanai enrolled in LBJ, earned her high school diploma, and began her training in the Office Administration trade. Initially, her plan had been to graduate from LBJ and begin a career in cosmetology. “I had time to sit and think about what I really wanted to do with my life after Job Corps. I decided I didn’t want to go home and do the same that I was doing before,” says Dajeanai.

After she enrolled in LBJ, Dajeanai learned about the Special Uses Administrator training program. Over a period of two years, the program provides students the opportunity to complete the Special Uses Administration training on the LBJ campus. Once they complete their training, graduates receive a merit certificate that they can use to compete for career opportunities in Realty Management with the Forest Service. The training also provides participants a competitive edge to apply for positions with other Agencies and industry partners that have Special Uses Administration. Realty Management entry level salaries start at approximately $32,000 and offer a career ladder up to the GS-13 grade level. 

In June of 2018, after completing training that included Fundamentals of Land and Realty Management, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Special Uses Database, Dajeanai began a three month internship on the Chippewa National Forest. She entered data and checked bill payments in the Special Use Database System, completed site inspections, and assisted wildlife biologists with completing surveys.

Dajeanai also found a mentor in Walker Ranger District Ranger Sherry Fountain, who is now the Rocky Mountain Region stewardship program manager. Ms. Fountain inspired me to pursue a career in special uses with the Forest Service,” says Dajeanai.

“Dajeanai has huge potential,” says Fountain. “She is very enthusiastic and it’s so refreshing to see someone with that energy in the special uses program.”

Dajeanai’s enrollment in the LBJ Special Uses Program has given her the opportunity to travel across the country and experience diverse aspects of the Special Uses and Land and Realty Management programs. She had a second opportunity to head out into the field in March 2019 when she traveled to Wrangell, Alaska, to complete additional fieldwork on the Tongass National Forest. In addition to refining her knowledge of the special uses program, Dajeanai also experienced driving a boat for the first time and seeing a diverse array of wildlife, including whales, sea lions, and otters.

“I don’t regret being in Job Corps for two years, because I have something to show for it. I’m 20 years old and instead of sitting at home and searching for a job, I am building a career,” says Dajeanai. “I could not let myself pass up this chance. Job Corps has really changed my life for the greater good and I wouldn’t be where I’m at now if it wasn’t for this program.

Woma in FS uniform and floating devices, standing on shore, next to boat
Special Uses Program Intern Dajeanai Pennamon, accompanied by Tongass National Forest Land Specialist Dave Rak, completes inspections of cabins and land use on the Pacific coastline on the Tongass National Forest, Wrangell, Alaska, on April 2, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo by Dave Rak.
Woman in FS uniform, safety vest, standin in forest
Special Uses Program Intern Dajeanai Pennamon, accompanied by Tongass National Forest Land Specialist Dave Rak, completes inspections of cabins and land use on the Pacific coastline on the Tongass National Forest, Wrangell, Alaska, on April 2, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo by Dave Rak.