Jefferson Award Winner, July 2017: Jen Roman

MADISON (WKOW) — Jen Roman has spent decades serving on the City of Madison Fire Department. 

She’s had to overcome a lot of barriers to make it to the role of captain.

It’s a path she wants to make easier for girls everywhere. So, she started CampHERO 6 years ago.

"We’ve had girls from all over the nation come to us," she says. "I never saw a woman in a firetruck, my whole life." 

So, she became one and has spent 20 years on the Madison Fire Department working her way up the ladder.

"People like me who have advanced to fire captain or fire chief are statistically insignificant. There aren’t enough of us to make a full percentage, so they don’t count us."

Now, she’s making sure women will be counted.

CampHERO gives girls in kindergarten through 12th grade hands on experience in training as firefighters, EMTs and police officers.

They knock down doors, put out fires, repel down buildings and learn rescue and first aid techniques.

8th grader Sarah Hill has been going to camp for six years.

She says," Most camps, you kind of do more girly stuff. And so CampHERO is a really fun way to do more hands on work."

It’s a partnership with the Girl Scouts of  Badgerland Wisconsin, where Jen’s been volunteering for nearly 30 years.

"The Girl Scouts offered that expertise about how to grow a girl. How to take a girl and let her experience something so that she can be a leader," says Jen.

Every summer, Madison College is transformed into a training ground and Jen’s vision comes to life.

"This isn’t about, women should take over the world. This is about gender equity.  We should have the same opportunity in this workforce as our male colleagues."

Jen makes sure all girls get that opportunity.

The Girl Scouts offers financial assistance for families who can’t afford the cost of camp.

"There’s already lots of barriers to women entering the protective services, but we don’t want that to be the case her," she says.

Jen’s a force at camp, known as Yoda.

"She really is a dedicated woman. This woman, she works fire, she works MATC, she does volunteer work, she doesn’t have a life. We are it," says volunteer Alexandria Nieves Reyes with the Madison Police Department.

For Jen, it’s a life dedicated to giving more than a thousand girls who’ve come to camp a chance at a career and a future.

"We are addressing a social issue through the girls and the women and the men that we meet here at camp. I know this is one little camp in one little place, but I’m hoping that we have that ripple affect," says Jen.

Jen says the City of Madison is dedicated to gender diversity and so she’s gotten a lot of support for CampHERO from the police and fire departments and from Madison College.



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