Monticello, Arkansas- Foresters for the Future 2023 Scholarship recipient Jackson Boles decided early in life what career path he wanted to pursue. “I knew I wanted to be in something outdoors, but at the same time, something with the people,” said Jackson Boles, a University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) freshman Natural Resource Management major with a Forestry emphasis. Boles was named the 2023 Forester for the Future scholarship recipient by the UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture Forestry Division.
The Arkansas native, Boles, spent the first 16 years of his life in Silom Springs, then moved to
Waldron due to family circumstances. The Ouachita National Forest surrounds the Waldron area. There, his interest in forestry broadened. Boles says his uncle, R.L. Self, works for the USDA Forest Service on a fire crew and showed him some ‘cool stuff.’ “He got me interested and told me it’s a career field with great job opportunities,” said Boles.
Boles said his high school also influenced his decision to pursue forestry. Waldron High School
works to provide its students with exposure to job opportunities and career paths. During a job
fair, he said someone from the USDA Forest Service came to speak to students about “a day in
the life” and the range of career activities in forestry.
“Jackson’s been a really impressive young man to get to know. He prides himself on having
traditional values of hard work and working his way up in the world. Once he discovered a fire in his belly for forestry, he hit the ground running,” said Michael Blazier, dean of the UAM
College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Internship with the USDA Forest Service
Boles’s uncle, R.L. Self, pointed Boles toward summer intern opportunities with the USDA
Forest Service. “He said his supervisor, James Johnson, was big on certifications. He made sure we were all certified for everything. I got certified in CPR and my sawyer certification (the
certification allows for operating a chainsaw in moderately complex situations),” said Boles.
Boles adds, “When we went outdoors, we did some of everything. We mixed silviculture, timber
cruising, and plots. We studied the decay of trees and fire; we switched jobs almost weekly. We
did some cleanup of historic places.”
Boles said the highlight of the summer was giving a tour of the national forest to a group of
people from Africa who came to Waldron. He said the group came to study how to use their
environment better to make it more sustainable so they can survive.
Boles says the four-year Foresters for the Future scholarship will help with his career ambitions.
He already has plans beyond getting his degree in forestry at UAM. After graduation, he plans
to pursue a master’s degree in geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing, a fast- advancing field that fosters forest and natural resources management.
Boles said getting the Foresters for the Future Scholarship was not easy. In addition to writing an essay about why he would be a good fit for the scholarship, he said all five candidates
participated in a 30-minute Zoom call with the selection committee. Ironically, Boles said he was working in the field that day and had to do the Zoom from the field. Boles said what might have helped him most was that part of the summer internship was preparing their resumes and
summarizing everything they had done during their internship. Boles said everything was fresh
on his mind during the interview. Boles said he thinks completing his certifications might have
helped advance him in the selection process. “Jackson’s already had a summer internship with
the USDA Forest Service,” said Blazier. “He has experience equal to that of a junior, but he’s a
first-year freshman. Jackson’s also a man of many talents; besides his forestry studies, he’s a
member of the UAM cheer team. He says all the lifting from cheer keeps him in good shape,”
Boles Joins Cheer Squad
When you meet Jackson Boles, 6 feet, 1 inch, and 270 pounds, you might think of him as a
rugged lumberjack or football player. He was a football player and received some offers to play
for small colleges. However, his love of forestry attracted him to UAM, and he decided to focus
on his career. Boles said too many injuries, including two knee surgeries and an injured shoulder, made him pivot his football career. While at Siloam Springs, he was part of a cheer squad that has since advanced to some national competitions. Boles said he always loved cheerleading because it uses a whole different set of muscles. Jackson said, “They talked about wanting me to come for UAM football to try out, to see if I was interested. They talked about scholarships for snapping the football, but I wouldn’t do that. I wasn’t even planning to do cheer when I decided to attend the University of Arkansas at Monticello; it was solely for forestry,” said Boles, “Miss Julie Barnes, the UAM Head Cheerleading Coach, saw my experience, and she approached me and said, ‘We need some big guys for cheer, and we need some strong guys, and we want you to join.'” Boles’ position on the cheer squad is called a “back spot.” He stands below and behind the girls when they are in the air, ensuring they don’t fall forward or backward.
Foresters for the Future
The Foresters of the Future scholarship was created three years ago by the Arkansas Forestry
Division, which provides the funding for it, recognizing the need to continue to grow our forestry profession. “We’ve got an aging cohort, a large cohort of folks retiring right now. There are abundant professional opportunities, and this is one of our scholarships that helps build the next generation of foresters. Jackson is our third recipient, and our first recipient is preparing to
graduate in the spring. So, we’re getting almost to maturity for this scholarship program,” said
Blazier adds, “It’s a lucrative scholarship that provides $4000 a semester.”
Blaizer said,” The application process for the scholarship is that we ask all our applicants to write an essay about what led them to be interested in forestry and what their career passions are for forestry. Then, a select group of those are called in for an interview with the scholarship
selection committee of the state forester for the Arkansas Forestry Division, the College of
Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources scholarship coordinator, and me to get to know
It’s Who You Know
Boles made a lot of contacts this summer. He said he just received a care package from the
Poteau/Cold Springs District office co-workers telling him to keep up the good work and that
they were proud of him. Boles believes that he may eventually return to the Forest Service. “I
would like to return to the Poteau/Cold Springs District. I want to start a GIS program with them. They have one person right now who’s trying to get the certification, and they wanted me to jump right on board.”
“I think if everything goes well, I plan to return. Not this summer, maybe not next, but the year
after, working with them again another summer and helping them with the GIS because they
have some big GIS things coming up,” said Boles.