4-H Alumni: Where are they now?
Like thousands of young people before them, these four built skills to lead for life.
Alise Sjostrom, age 31: From 4-H to CFANS to boutique food leader
After years of effort to get Redhead Creamery up and running, Alise and Lucas Sjostrom were finally ready to make their first cheese. It flopped. A problem with the vat set cheesemaking back a couple of months.
This new destination for cheese lovers only exists today because the owners knew how to press on through challenges.
“Many times in my 4-H dairy project years I had a good animal that just refused to cooperate when it came time for the show,” says CEO Alise Sjostrom. “Those experiences helped me get tougher. My mom taught me that it’s not about the show, but to learn something.”
Alise discovered farmstead cheese at age 17 during a 4-H dairy trip to Wisconsin. Everything after that, from her studies at the University of Minnesota to her spring break destinations, centered on learning how to make the best farmstead and artisan cheeses.
“You help people in this business, just like how you help your younger siblings in 4-H. It’s fun to see how it all continues.”
—Alise Sjostrom, CEO, Redhead Creamery
Dairy was also a passion for Lucas. The two met as kids at the Minnesota Junior Holstein Association conference, stayed connected through a variety of 4-H experiences and fell in love when they both attended the University of Minnesota. As students, they toured artisan cheese plants throughout New England. Alise made her first batches of cheese in the U’s dairy labs and graduated from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) with a degree in agricultural industries and marketing with a dairy food quality emphasis. Lucas’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees are in animal science, focusing on industry, communications and dairy herd management.
Alise now runs Redhead Creamery in Brooten with Lucas and her parents, Jerry and Linda Jennissen. They give tours of the plant and lease project animals to 4-H youth who might become inspired to start their own creameries. “So many cheesemakers helped me,” she says. “You help people in this business, just like how you help your younger siblings in 4-H. It’s fun to see how it all continues.”
Rachel Pichelmann, age 30: Young engineer of the year
Her career as a water resources engineer was inspired by her 4-H earth science project in Nicollet County, but Rachel Pichelmann still thinks about the 4-H communications project too.
“I distinctly remember waiting there in that chair, preparing to speak at the communications contest,” she says. “It was a feeling of pure dread.”
Flash forward to the moment before a presentation in college. “I was waiting in a chair just like before. I didn’t feel that same dread. I thought, I need to call Mom and thank her for signing me up for 4-H.”
Those skills help the engineer at Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. when she collaborates with agencies, clients and the public on projects throughout the Midwest. She enjoys working on multi-discipline teams, assisting clients with identifying and understanding flood risk, and developing alternatives which may reduce this risk.
Between her junior and senior years in high school, Pichelmann developed a 4-H project with data she collected while volunteering in the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The project sparked her interest in engineering and the environment.
The purple ribbons the project earned her at the Minnesota State Fair were not her last awards. In 2017, she was presented with two Young Engineer of the Year awards, one from the Minnesota Federation of Engineering, Science, and Technology Societies and the other from the Society of American Military Engineers.
Jim Kemp, age 83: Giving back to 4-H
When Jim Kemp was a child in Colorado, he started a 4-H dog club. “Everyone I knew had a dog, but they didn’t all live on farms like I did,” he says. He wanted everyone to have the chance to participate in 4-H, which was mostly agricultural in his 1940s community.
Now, in his retirement from a life of 4-H and public service, he wants to expose teenagers to leadership opportunities whether they live outside Worthington or in downtown Minneapolis.
His gifts to the Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador program will do just that.
Minnesota 4-H State Ambassadors, often called “Ambies,” serve as spokespeople for 4-H to educate youth and adults about the importance of youth development, leadership, citizenship, service, teamwork and other life skills.
Hoang Murphy, age 26: Discovering a world of educational possibilities
When Hoang Murphy’s parents adopted him and his brother, they immediately enrolled the boys in 4-H in Norman County. “It played an important part in my own growing up,” says his mother, Sheila Capistran. “I wanted to raise my family with those values in mind.”
“I was able to go to D.C. with 4-H and have leadership roles at a young age,” says Murphy. He served as a club and county officer and a Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador from 2008 to 2010.
Although it was challenging at times, these experiences helped him to grow and develop skills in civic responsibility and an understanding of the role of leaders in a system.
After graduating from high school, he earned a degree in policy studies from The Maxwell School of Syracuse University and a master’s in education from Johns Hopkins University. In 2016, Murphy became a public policy fellow at the United States Department of Education in Washington, D.C.
“4-H was a way to further my education outside of the schoolhouse,” says Murphy. “Now I want to teach and extend similar opportunities to other young people.”
Connect with 4-H Alumni and Friends
Did you know there is an alumni community for Minnesotans who grew up in Extension 4-H? We are more than 50,000 strong! Joining the Minnesota 4-H Alumni and Friends Community is free. You will reconnect with other proud alumni, discovering ways to support 4-H across our state.