It’s been decades since Jen Roman fought her first fire, but through the years, she’s been paving the way for young women in southern Wisconsin to pursue careers in the protective services.
Today, she’s the captain of the Madison Fire Department’s EMS division, a 30-year Girl Scout volunteer, and the founder of CampHERO. It’s for these reasons and more that she was selected to represent the region at the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony on June 28 in Washington D.C.
The Jefferson Awards Foundation celebrates ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their community. Hundreds of Americans are selected as Jefferson Awardees each year, but only one from each region is chosen to attend the prestigious National Ceremony. Roman was extended an invitation by Madison’s WKOW Channel 27, a Jefferson Award Media Partner.
“Being selected as a Jefferson Award Winner is a great honor, and being selected for the National Award is incredible, but it’s not about me” Roman said. “I have the privilege of leading an amazing group of people, who TOGETHER make CampHERO so successful. That’s the power of Girl Scouts. We know how to bring together the right people, at the right time, to make the world a better place.”
Roman, with the support of Girl Scouts of Wisconsin – Badgerland Council, founded CampHERO in 2012 to introduce girls to the protective services, and to reinforce that that they are smart, strong and brave enough to pursue a career as a police officer, fire fighter, EMT/paramedic or dispatcher.
“I’ve said it a thousand times – Girl Scouts prepared me well for my career,” Roman said. “I learned hands-on skills like tying knots and flag protocol. I learned how to manage big events and how to bring people together. All along I was growing into a confident, courageous woman on character. CampHERO is Girl Scouts in protective services style!”
With the help of professional instructors and volunteers, girls get hands-on experience putting out fires, repelling down buildings, lifting and examining fingerprints, knocking down doors, and learning rescue and first-aid techniques.
Over the last six years, CampHERO has impacted thousands of young women. This summer’s camp will span two weeks in July, with a day program for younger girls, an overnight stay for fourth and fifth graders, three nights for middle-schoolers and five nights for high-schoolers. While the program itself is held at Madison Area Technical College, campers will stay overnight at a “fire station” at Camp Brandenburg, a Badgerland Girl Scouts property near Madison.
“What CampHERO is doing for girls and women is essential,” Roman said. “Police, EMS and especially fire have dismal numbers of women among their ranks, yet diversity among those who protect us is crucial. CampHERO is already making a difference here in Wisconsin and the template can easily be duplicated for any career.”
Roman says she plans to use the momentum from CampHERO’s positive response to expand the initiative’s reach by adding sessions, taking CampHERO on the road, and adding the opportunity for older girls and women to earn their Emergency Medical Responder and Entry Level Fire certificates.
“Girl Scouts is all about helping women of all ages discover their inner G.I.R.L. – their inner go-getter, innovator, risk-taker and leader,” said Badgerland Girl Scouts CEO Marci Henderson. “At CampHERO, girls are getting realistic, hands-on training on things they probably wouldn’t get to try otherwise. No matter their age, Girl Scouts are earning valuable skills from real-life professionals – and having fun doing it.”