Class of 2012
Major: Outdoor Education
Favorite weekend activity: Teaching snowboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, attending church
Career Plans: Outdoor education
At Johnson State, Jess Pafumi laid the groundwork for a life-changing trip: volunteering at a rehabilitation camp in Uganda for children once kidnapped by a rebel army and forced to carry out acts of brutality.
“It’s an experience that gives you perspective on life,” Jess said of her volunteer work at a camp run by ChildVoice International. “A lot of people in America haven’t even been to a Third World country. Living among the people gives you gratitude for the life you live back home.”
To pay for the six-week summer trip, Jess spent the school year raising $4,250. She collected redeemable cans, wrote letters seeking support and sold bracelets stamped with Micah 6.8 (“act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God”). She was one of 10 Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (ICF) members from New England chosen for the Uganda internship.
Her drive to help others is rooted in her faith: In high school, Jess found answers in Christianity. At Johnston State, she is president of the ICF chapter, leading Bible studies in her apartment and feeding whoever shows up. “I love bringing people together, being hospitable and making a big pot of spaghetti,” she says. “I was raised in a very Italian family.”
After college, she hopes to connect her faith with her love of the outdoors by opening up a camp for people with special needs.
“I see everybody created equally in the eyes of God, and I hope to incorporate that into what I do,” she says. “I’m taking small business classes. I’m a big dreamer. After I get out of school, it’s a process of saving money, as well as gaining the experience working with a Christian organization that goes outdoors, or with a general outdoors organization, to get the experience and focus to open my own camp.”
With its 350-acre campus in the heart of the Green Mountains, Johnson State has provided Jess with an ideal setting for exploring the outdoors.
“The main reason I came to Johnson State was the area. The Outdoor Education Program was different from anything I could have gotten in Massachusetts. You’re just 45 minutes from three major snowboarding mountains in Vermont. I started snowboarding when I was in high school, and it became a passion,” says Jess, who has been active in JSC’s Snowboarding/Skiing Club.
Year-round, Jess has found a way to get paid for spending time outdoors - and to instill this passion in people of all ages. She teaches snowboarding at Jay Peak and winter sports and spring mountain biking in an after-school program at Lamoille Middle School.
“In the winter, we went extreme sledding, learned shelter-building skills and did some back-country hiking on trails in the woods,” she says. “The after-school program has given me opportunities for leadership.”
But her high-energy level doesn’t stop there. Through the Outdoor Education Program, she has gone whitewater rafting, backpacking, ice climbing and rock climbing, and she is helping plan a 19-day back-country trip to the Southwest. She also plays on the Division III varsity volleyball team - she and several other students pushed JSC to start the program - and as a student senator, she took on the project of building a beach volleyball court.
“I played a lot of beach volleyball during high school,” she says. “It’s something that brings a lot of people together just have to have fun. It doesn’t have to be competitive. It’s a stress reliever.”
As a tour guide for the Admissions Office, Jess summarizes her college experience, explaining to campus visitors how Johnson State can help students achieve their dreams.
“Johnson has an amazing community,” she says. “There are so many opportunities to get involved - clubs, sports and academics. It’s very easy to find your niche. If you go to Johnson, you can find your calling. As long as you apply yourself, you can definitely succeed and grow.”