Ann Lemke had been volunteering her time with 4-H for years, but she dreamed of making a bigger impact. She wanted to become a high school teacher to help more young people develop important skills they could use throughout life. Thanks to a scholarship from Minnesota 4-H, she will realize her dream.
Leading 4-H creative arts projects with young people in the Watkins area of central Minnesota had been so rewarding that she opted to pursue a master's degree in clothing and fashion, and a teaching certificate. It was a big commitment to start a second career, but with a bachelor's degree in fabric and textiles and a work background in clothing manufacturing, she knew it was within reach.
Lemke has been a 4-H'er all her life. Her three children have all been in 4-H, and she was a club leader and project volunteer. She applied for and received a 4-H Adult Workforce Re-entry Scholarship to help her achieve her goal. This scholarship helps adults who need a little help to refocus or advance their careers. They must be at least 30 years old, have been involved in 4-H, and be looking to make a career change.
"With the scholarship, I was able to focus on student teaching and study with a mentor instead of getting another job. That mentorship was the most valuable part of my education," Lemke said.
She continued, "4-H is learn by doing, and I believe in that, so every day I taught and then reflected on how I was going to do it better. Having someone work with me on that was so valuable. If I had had to take [another] job, it would not have been the same situation."
Throughout Lemke’s studies, she has continued volunteering with 4-H youth. When 4-H pivoted to delivering online learning for youth during COVID, Lemke, along with Extension Educator Cassidy Martin, developed a sewing kit for 4-H'ers to use at home to transform old T-shirts into personalized appliqued apparel. She also planned ways for youth to share their projects online. "That's something that is very transferable - I'll be able to do that with my high school students," Lemke said. Her larger goal is to help youth to pursue their passions with intention and clarity.
This month, Lemke is starting her first professional teaching job with the St. Cloud School District teaching sewing and career skills. She looks forward to getting started with her professional career, and will continue volunteering with 4-H.
“4-H has been a gift to me all my life. It always will be important to me," she said. "I feel blessed."
Learn more about the 4-H Adult Workforce Re-entry Scholarship and other scholarships and awards.