Jessica Brown

Woodland Community College - Lake County Campus

Nominated in 2022


I want to nominate Jessica Brown as an outstanding adult education student. She is a mother of four children, one with disabilities, who demonstrates the best qualities of a successful adult education student: grit, resilience, and adaptability.

Jessica started in our Prep for Success program in Spring 2019 with a group of women from her reservation. This course taught 21st Century Work Skills and some of the Basic Skills necessary to be able to complete her high school diploma. On the first day of class, all the students shared what educational goals they had. On that first day, Jessica told me of her burning desire to restore the traditional gathering lands of her tribe to their former health so that her people could gather and use the plants that had been used to promote health in the manner they have for more than 20,000 years. As we talked, I put a name to her desire. "It sounds like you want to be an ethnobotanist,"" I said.

Following the completion of Prep for Success, Jessica entered the high school completion program with Konocti Adult School (KAS). The instructor at KAS was very creative in helping Jessica with completing her course work. For example, Jessica taught a beading circle at the college during college hour, as a volunteer, for some of her history course work. She also took a month-long workshop with Tribal EcoRestoration Alliance, where she learned traditional controlled burning, forest restoration and some ethnobotany techniques that were counted as science classes. She received her High School Diploma in April 2021. During the time she was enrolled in the high school program, Jessica attempted to dually enroll in college classes. Due to a lack of confidence and some personal problems, she needed to drop the college courses.

Last summer, Jessica was hired half-time by a grant funded project on food sovereignty. The program is located on her reservation and is aimed at addressing a way to grow food at a place that is a toxic Super-fund site. Jessica is helping to build wicking beds and planting food in the beds in order to not transfer mercury and arsenic in the soil to the food that is grown in her community. They are just starting the planting so they can start to collect data for the project.

This spring, Jessica began taking classes full-time at the Lake County Campus of Woodland Community College. Her goal is to become an ethnobotanist with a focus on restoration of traditional medicinal plants of her people, the Elem Pomo. She also wants to start a seed bank to serve Lake County tribal people. In addition to her full-time load and her half-time position in the food sovereignty project, Jessica accepted a half-time position in our student support center as its clerk. Jessica's two part-time positions add up to full-time employment! At the same time, she is doing well in her classes. Her office and mine are nearby. She stops by regularly to discuss how she is addressing the challenges of balancing a very busy schedule. In the past, she might have bolted. Today she uses her resilience and grit to manage moving to the next steps on her journey towards becoming an ethnobotanist.

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