Alicia Thomas Forest ServiceStudent Spotlight

Alicia L. Arrington-Thomas is a native, born and raised in the South Central part of Los Angeles California. She attended and graduated from Alain Locke High School in 1997. Unknowing her future, the one thig that she did know was, that she would soon be attend one of the greatest Historically Black universities there was in the nation, Tuskegee University. After struggling her freshman year to not only find herself, but to become what it meant to be great and to do great things, she failed her freshman year. She made the academic probation list, not deans list. With options put on the table and support from her advisor (whom she was unsure about support, because she had changed her major four (4) other times and he was not her advisor, he was her Orientation teacher) Dr. Errol Rhoden of Plant and Soil Science, and her parents, Alicia decided, and was able to attend summer school at Tuskegee. During that summer, Dr. Rhoden gave Alicia great advice, which she spent many hours crying over. He told her, “When will you learn to be great, and not afraid of the greatness that you have inside”. Not knowing how to be great, Alicia continue, soon understanding her greatness. She earned her first internship, after pulling her GPA up, with Yellow Stone National Park, in Wyoming, in 1999. She enjoyed working in the Old Faithful back country office. She was even asked to be a volunteer recruiter for the Park service, which she did with pride. She then was invited to work at the Tuskegee National Historic Site on the Tuskegee University campus, as a tour guide with the Park Service. A part of the Trans Conversion team at Garst Seed Company in Slater, Iowa, and then moving on the work Biological Scientist with the Park Service at Big Cypress National Preserves in Ochopee, FL in 2002. In 2002, Alicia graduated from Tuskegee University with a double/ dual degree, in Environmental Science and Plant and Soil Science.

Though still not sure of her calling, Alicia decided to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA where she started working on her master of science in Urban Forestry. In 2004, she was asked to apply to apply to the MINRC program, submitting an application, resume, and essay. Not knowing what to expect, she was selected to attend the conference, where she was also selected as the “Teddy B Roosevelt” essay contest winner. She was also introduced to a man who would surprisingly take her in as a mentee, her mentor, the late great Steve Joseph James.

She graduated from Southern University in 2005. Work as a volunteer with the Big Branch Mash doing Red Cockaded-Woodpecker studies, and prescribed burnings. She went on to work with TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) out of Muscle Shoals, AL, as a Watershed Representative, the Forest Service in Rolla Missouri as a Forester; NRCS in South Dakota as a Soil Scientist; APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Service) out of Long Island New Jersey, working with the eradication of Asian Long Horn beetles; Department of the Air Force as a Recreation Specialist; joined the Army Reserves at the age of 32; Homeland Security as an Agricultural Specialist in Newark, NJ; the NRCS as a the District Conservationist of Sabine Parish; and now back with the Forest Service as a NEPA, Special Uses, Recreation, Trails Program manager.

Never giving up, with the opportunity to, not know everything, but to be able to hold a conversation about anything, Alicia graduated from Virginia Tech with a graduate certification in Climate Change and Environments December, 2015, and two masters in May 2016, in Natural Resources and Conservations and Food Safety. In the mist of her career, Alicia married an active duty Hydraulics Specialist in Anchorage, AK in 2006. Her husband is now a senior Math major at Mississippi College, and in the Air Force Reserves. She is the mother of three (3) beautiful children, Jonah Marie (9), Johnathan Chancey II (7), and her last Journey Noel (1). All which have supported her though out career and the many choices she has made.

Alicia’s goals in life? She’s says to make one more move, letting it be her greatest and most meaningful move. With that in mind, continuing to be great at all she does, working with others, and learning to one day be a great mentor as her mentor Steve James was to her.