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Elijah Michaletz: "In 4-H I found my passion and the way I want to make a difference."

Elijah & sister Miranda visiting Peru in 2012
I recently had the opportunity interview
Elijah Michaletz, a Meeker County 4-H alum and junior at the University of Minnesota –Twin Cities. Here’s a peek into our conversation:

Erin Kelly-Collins: Tell me about a favorite memory from your 13 years as a Minnesota 4-H’er.

Elijah Michaletz:My favorite memory would be my year as a Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador. I had the time of my life working with amazing and dedicated 4-H'ers from all over the state to accomplish a common goal. It was also fun to host BLUs and YELLO [youth leadership conferences] for hundreds of 4-H'ers, along with serving during all twelve days of the State Fair.

EKC: What were your primary 4-H projects and how did you chose them?

EM: My 4-H experience centered on two very different project areas. When I was young, my parents asked if I would rather take a trip to Disneyworld or raise rabbits. I don't know why, but I chose rabbits and a 10+ year 4-H project was born! My sister and I raised a variety of rabbit breeds, but especially love Satins. I was honored to represent Meeker County 4-H’s rabbit project at the Minnesota State Fair for 7 years and even earned a few awards! My parents were instrumental in my experience; they served as rabbit superintendents in our county to ensure we all have the best opportunity to learn and develop.

Elijah & fellow 4-H'ers at 2008 Meeker County Fair
The other 4-H project I was deeply involved in was Global Connections. I created projects on Germany, Austria, and Switzerland prior to traveling there during high school. In anticipation of my studies here at the U of M, I did a project on the history of China. Through Global Connections, I found my passion and the way I want to make a difference in the world.

EKC: Tell me a little about what you're studying here at the U and what your career goals are.

EM: I am getting ready to begin my junior year at the University of Minnesota –Twin Cities where I am double majoring in Geography (with a focus in population and migration) and Global Studies (with a focus in East Asian studies). I am also minoring in Anthropology. I aspire to pursue a graduate degree in Demography and then work for the United Nations monitoring population and migration around the world.

EKC: How else are you involved in the University of Minnesota community?

EM: I work for Jacquie Lonning at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development as her Citizenship and Leadership Student Assistant. My work focuses on supporting 4-H youth leadership retreats and conferences as well as developing tools and materials for both the 4-H State and County Ambassador programs.

Elijah with fellow 4-H alumni (and U of M bandmates)
Alex Bosch and Janessa Palmer
I also play Baritone in the University of Minnesota Marching and Pep bands, along with playing a Herald Trumpet for the University of Minnesota Herald Trumpets. I became an Admissions Ambassador during my sophomore year and love helping prospective students get a good feel for our university. Next spring I will participate in a study abroad program in China.

EKC: What are you passionate about?

EM: I have always loved travel and people, so I combined them to study population. What I love about my field is that I will be able to help the world in the future by figuring out problems for our ever growing population. With the world already having 7.2 billion people, we will face more food and water shortages, along with challenges that come with a changing climate. I love that I'll be part of a worldwide team that is answering questions about where our growing population should live and how to best feed them.

EKC: How did your 4-H experiences prepare you for this career?

EM: My parents always encouraged my sister and me to go out and explore the world. I was able to do that through my 4-H research projects and community service experiences. Those experiences opened my eyes to the problems that our world faces and introduced me to some of the tools that I will need to help improve our world and solve these problems.

4-H also helped me earn a scholarship through Youth for Understanding called the Congress Bundestag Scholarship, which enabled me to study in Germany during my senior year in high school. Without the experiences and opportunities provided by 4-H, I would have never been able to receive that scholarship.
U of M Marching Band members proudly show #IAM4H

EKC: Why do you think Minnesota 4-H is great?

EM: I believe Minnesota 4-H is great because it challenges youth to develop themselves and the world around them. It challenges them through county and state competitions that are focused on our motto: "to make the best better." I also believe Minnesota 4-H is a great organization because it is willing to change with the times to provide our youth with the best opportunities and resources for success.

EKC: What advice do you have for current 4-H’ers?

EM: Always have that drive to find a better solution through learning and exploration. 4-H has given me the opportunities and the tools to find my career path and my way into a better world. And to my fellow 4-H alumni, I encourage you to give back to this great organization. Your 4-H experiences would not have been possible without volunteers and alumni who invested in you. Keep inspiring the youth of Minnesota; without you they will not be able to solve the problems of tomorrow and will not be able "to make the best better."

Feb. 2017 update:
EM: I'm currently in Norway, studying for a semester at the University of Oslo and doing some background research for my senior thesis. I plan on comparing Minneapolis and Oslo as hubs for Somali immigration. I want to learn why these two cities attract Somalis, explore the different types of programs that exist to support this specific population, and identify we can improve existing programs to make immigration easier for not only Somalis, but all immigrants.

Would you like to be a Minnesota 4-H Featured Alum? Tell us about yourself and we'll contact you to learn more!

Erin Kelly-Collins
Alumni Coordinator
Minnesota 4-H Foundation

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