Jessica Church grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, with her older sister and her mother - a teacher - and father, who worked in maintenance. After graduating from high school in Des Moines, she attended the University of Iowa. While working for the university’s outdoor recreation program and at a YMCA camp during the summers, she decided that she wanted work in outdoor recreation, so she moved to Corvallis, Oregon, after three years at University of Iowa. Once in Oregon, she worked for the YMCA in Albany, Oregon, and for Corvallis Parks and Recreation, and then enrolled at Oregon State University. She graduated from the College of Forestry with a degree in Recreation Resource Management.
Church then received an internship at Stanford University, working in the outdoor program for a year. After that, she worked for Adventure Treks for a summer before taking a position as the operations manager for Chico State University’s outdoor program. In 2017, she accepted an instructor position at Oregon State University in the Adventure Leadership Institute. She is still in this position at OSU, teaching mountaineering, rock climbing, canyoneering, Wilderness First Aid, and Wilderness First Responder courses.