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Jane Leonard and Karin (Leonard) Sonneman- "We are active members of the community because of 4-H."

Karin (Left) and Jane (right) volunteering at the State Fair
Jane Leonard and Karin (Leonard) Sonneman are twin sisters with family roots in Mille Lacs County.

Even though they didn’t have a "traditional" 4-H experience, the two of them still credit 4-H for helping them grow as leaders and members of their community.

Their first 4-H experience was in the collegiate 4-H program at the University of Maryland. Karin studied economics and Jane studied journalism and agriculture. As 4-H members, both of them had the opportunity to travel all over Maryland to help clubs learn about citizenship and leadership. They were college mentors to youth all over the state. "It was really a great opportunity for us to grow as leaders while in college," Karin said.

"The pledge helped affirm our upbringing of the importance of public service. It’s important to lead with your heart and work hard with your hands in order to contribute to your community with your head," Karin said. "The training I got in 4-H prepared me for life and for my career," said Jane.

When Jane and Karin were quite young, their family moved from Minnesota to Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C. They returned to help on their grandparent’s farm in Mille Lacs County every summer, but it wasn’t enough time to get involved in 4-H.

Jane working on a broadband site
After graduating, both of them journeyed to the University of Minnesota for their graduate degrees. Jane got her M.A. in Mass Communications with an emphasis on Ag Journalism. She worked for several years at the Norman County Index based in Ada, MN and at CENEX (now CHS). Since then, she’s had a long career in community, economic, and rural development with public, private, and philanthropic organizations. Today, she’s the broadband grants administrator at the MN Office of Broadband Development, working with public and private partners to bring high-speed broadband internet to greater Minnesota.
Karin serves as the
Winona County attorney

Karin got her M.S. in Ag Economics. After graduate school, Karin worked at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission as a telecommunications rates analyst and went to law school. After graduating, Karin and her husband Karl moved to Winona, where they opened up a law firm together. Karin also worked as a public defender. In 2010, Karin was elected to serve as Winona County Attorney. She is now in her second term.

Jane and Karin's 4-H involvement did not stop when they left Maryland. Karin is an annual sponsor of Winona County 4-H during their county fair, and Jane is a donor. And they both volunteer together each year with the 4-H Alumni and Friends booth at the State Fair. "It’s such an important program to so many people," said Jane. "It’s nice to see so many kids grow and learn and work together for the community," Karin added.

Laura Wyatt
Minnesota 4-H Foundation
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