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Sheila Capistran and Hoang Capistran Murphy: "Never doubt your ability to make a difference."

Sheila Capistran and Hoang (Capistran) Murphy, mother and son, are 4-H alumni from Norman County. When Sheila and her husband adopted Hoang and his brother brothers Phuc they immediately enrolled the boys in the Hegne Hustlers 4-H Club. "It played an important part in my own growing up," said Sheila. "I internalized the motto and wanted to raise my family with those values in mind."

Sheila and Hoang working in the garden
Hoang’s greatest highlight from his years in 4-H was serving as a Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador from 2008 to 2010. He was able to grow and develop his leadership skills even though it was sometimes challenging. Another highlight was going to the Minnesota State Fair. "I loved showing my projects and meeting other members from across the state. Plus I have a special place in my heart (or maybe just a blocked artery) for fair food." Sheila’s favorite parts of watching Hoang grow up in the program were watching him try and succeed, or fail, and gaining a deep understanding of related consequences. She also loved seeing him figure out how to follow, lead, and encourage others, in addition to learning how to communicate effectively in public.

After graduating from Ada-Borup High School, Hoang attended the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, majoring in Policy Studies. He also received his M.S., Ed. From Johns Hopkins University.

Hoang with former Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr.
Today, Hoang lives in Washington, D.C. and is a Public Policy Fellow at the United States Department of Education in the Office of the Secretary. He started in September of 2016. Before this role, he taught high school in West Baltimore. "It is difficult to measure the impact 4-H has had on me. 4-H was a way to further my education outside of the schoolhouse. It was able to provide joy and responsibility in furthering the present educational system, which led me to want to teach and extend similar opportunities to other young people," said Hoang.

Sheila has been involved as a board member of the University’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, and also on Norman County’s Extension Committee. She works with the Lake Agassiz Regional Library System, consults with area greenhouses, and grows and sells a few thousand heirloom plants through her farm, Ada Tomato. She also heads up an annual scholarship in honor of her late daughter, Laural.

Sheila transplanting for Ada Tomato
The program has indeed made a large impact on both of their lives. "4-H showed me that there was a bigger world outside of rural Minnesota and that opportunity is waiting for those lucky enough to have access to it. 4-H provided that access. I was able to go to DC for the first time because of 4-H and was able to have leadership roles at a young age as a club and county officer," Hoang said.  Sheila added, "The 4-H principles were what I wanted my family to strive for, share from, and build on. I look at it as a continuing plan for community service; and an almost certain way to build good stewards, citizens, and leaders."

Both Hoang and Sheila have advice for other 4-H alumni and youth still in the program. "Join. Learn. Participate. Celebrate. Encourage and invite others" was Sheila’s response. Hoang said, "Never doubt your ability to make a difference. Your age or the scale of your work does not diminish the impact you are making."

Laura Wyatt
Minnesota 4-H Foundation

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