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Maria Brekke: "4-H allowed me to bond and connect with people."

Maria Brekke grew up in Scott County, a member of the Shakopee Super Seekers 4-H Club. Throughout her time in 4-H, she made lifelong bonds and built a foundation of values like hard work, humility and self-sufficiency.

Maria and her sister, Anna
She learned these important life skills and values through many 4-H programs. One of her earliest 4-H memories is showing pigs with her siblings and cousins at the Scott County Fair. Maria also constructed sewing projects with the help of her great-aunt. "I loved the hours I had at her house sewing and spending time together."

From 2010-2012, Maria served as a Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador. "During that time, I gained an incredible amount of confidence and self-worth, which I credit to the program and its leaders. The ambassador program is one of the most impressive things 4-H offers. I hope 4-Hers continue to take advantage of it," she said.

Perhaps her fondest 4-H memory is meeting her husband, Nick Penning. They were both working at the 4-H Building at the state fair. She was on exhibit staff and he was on the STEM team. They quickly discovered they were both University of Minnesota students. This past summer, they bought a house just two blocks from the fairgrounds. She is grateful every day that 4-H created an opportunity for them to meet.

Maria met her husband Nick at the State Fair 
The University of Minnesota is a significant part of Maria’s family. Her parents, all three of her siblings, her husband, and Maria have all studied at the University. She completed her undergraduate degree in English and History. She's currently in her last year at the University of Minnesota Law School. "I am a community service coordinator for the Women Law Student Association, a position I was interested in because of me service experience through 4-H," she said.

Upon graduation, she has it all planned out. "I will clerk at the Minnesota Supreme Court for one year, and then I begin my career as a lawyer. I hope to make volunteer work in immigration and civil rights an important part of my career."
Maria pictured with State Fair exhibit staff
Maria encourages young people to meet as many people as they can during their 4-H years. "I feel blessed because I have friends who are farmers, doctors and teachers. Friends who are newly-arrived immigrants and friends whose families have lived in the same town in rural Minnesota for more than 100 years. Friends who are getting their PhDs and friends who found a passion that doesn’t require a four-year degree. I have learned incredible things from all of these people. My most important piece of advice to 4-H'ers is not to limit yourself in the experiences you seek out and the connections you make. You never know where they will take you."

Laura Wyatt
Extension Development Office

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