Where Are They Now?

Have you ever wondered about the history of our 4-H Foundation Board members? We asked members of the Board about their past in 4-H and how they continue to make an impact on our organization today. See where they are now in their lives and what 4-H has done for them!

Nancy (Amundson) Bilz

Starting in the early 1970’s, Nancy (Amundson) Bilz was a part of 4-H in Janesville, Rock County. She participated in knitting, sewing, and floral arrangements. Her father Marvin, an electrician who assisted with wiring projects, and mother Lou Ann, an accomplished sewer, helped with instructing 4-Her’s. Nancy attended UW-Whitewater from 1976 to 1980, receiving her BBA in Accounting. She then worked in the financial services industry for twenty years until she joined the largest livestock marketing cooperative in Wisconsin, holding this position from 1999 to the present day, currently serving as the CFO and Vice President of Finance.

Through her position at Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association, she became involved with the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation. In 2015, she was asked to serve as treasurer and continues to volunteer in the treasurer position as well as sits on the foundation’s Board of Directors. She helps with yearly fundraising events such as the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Meat Products Auction at the Wisconsin State Fair and attends the Annual Hall of Fame and Donor’s Banquet at the 4-H Fall Forum each year. Nancy says she “really [enjoys] the banquet at Fall Forum, connecting with the 4-Her’s in attendance, and hearing about their experiences and aspirations for the future.”

Ron Gerrits

As an active member of Brown County 4-H, Ron Gerrits participated in various projects as well as speaking, drama, music, and sports competitions. He also attended 4-H camp as a camper and counselor, traveled to State 4-H Congress, Citizenship Washington Focus, and National 4-H Conference, and served as president of the State Youth Leader’s Association. Ron believes that his participation and involvement in 4-H has helped him develop communication and leadership skills as well as created memories and lifelong friendships. He currently lives in Sheboygan with his wife and two children, chaperoning 4-H camps as an adult 4-H leader and serving as a member of the county 4-H Riversite committee.

Ron graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Over the past 22 years, he has served as a full-time faculty member at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, teaching health science courses and carrying out administrative duties. Ron also continues to be an active member of numerous professional societies that focus on the improvement of science education as well as works with the local lake organization to improve water quality.

Pam Jahnke

Pam Jahnke was a member of Brookside 4-H in Oconto County from age 9 until graduating out. Throughout middle and high school, she put most of her energy into 4-H, holding every imaginable office position in her club. Pam fit every possible 4-H activity into her free time, attending 4-H camp as a camper and counselor along with acting as an interstate exchange student and host, still staying in touch with her host family from Illinois. She was also heavily involved with her county fair, showing multiple projects, working in the food stand, and later helping with announcing in the show ring. She was also a part of Oconto County’s first “Teen Leaders” Board, which worked with the County Fair Board and 4-H Board. After all this time, Pam has still maintained strong connections and friendships with different adult leaders who were involved in her 4-H experience.

Throughout her entire career, Pam has worked as a farm broadcaster in Wisconsin; today she is in charge of the Midwest Farm Report Network, managing a staff of 8 employees, a network of 21 radio stations across Wisconsin, weekday TV broadcasts, and a constantly growing social media audience and following. Pam enjoys “telling the stories of hard working 4-H kids and families through fairs and events,” as well as “partnering with different fairs and events to highlight 4-H and the culture it helps create.” She has assisted the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation with their annual Governor’s Blue Ribbon Meat Products Auction at the Wisconsin State Fair and has recently been welcomed to the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation Board.

Linda Kustka

Linda Kustka was an active 4-Her in Manitowoc County enjoying the Speaking opportunities and Clothing, Photography, and Horse projects. These enjoyable times contributed to her desire to work with 4-H Youth programs as an agent in Brown County and Volunteer/Leadership Specialist in Madison for 30 years, retiring in 2003. After Extension, Linda worked as a Family Advocate for Dane Co WI Family Ties and as Family Education Programs Director for WI NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness).

Currently, Linda and husband John are raising 4 and 9 year old grandchildren as their legal guardians. She is active with the 4-H YD retirees and has served as their Liaison to the WI 4-H Foundation Board. Linda enjoys being involved in behind the scenes work with the WI 4-H Art Auction which recognizes 4-H member artistic skills, statewide arts programming and raises funds for the Foundation to support statewide 4-H YD art programs. Linda is “a believer and supporter of 4-H youth programs endorsing the broadening scope of programming to reach new audiences. [She has] experienced the power of youth/adult partnerships that make a difference in the lives of individuals, families, and communities!”

Brianna Ripp

As a youth, Brianna Ripp participated in a wide variety of 4-H opportunities such as showing dairy cattle, participating in Area Animal Science Days, and showing photography, home furnishings, foods, and clothing. She spent her summers working on 4-H projects and spending time at the local county fair. Brianna credits much of who she is today to the skills and experiences she was able to gain through her involvement in 4-H; she was able to experience a trip to Kentucky, meet numerous friends through her involvement in arts and communication programming, and step into different leaderships roles in her club, the Browntown Busy Beavers. After graduating, she pursued a summer internship at the local county Extension office, supporting youth and watching them learn, grow, and thrive.

Today, Brianna uses her skills from 4-H to lead business discussions, challenge ideas, and bring marketing execution at Filament, a Madison-based agency focused on agriculture. She continues to volunteer with 4-H as Vice President of the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation Board. Brianna enjoys seeing how the funds raised by the Foundation through numerous different efforts support attendance at 4-H conferences, recruiting efforts, and multi-county projects. Her own children are starting to become involved in 4-H and she says she’s “ready to step into her role as a 4-H parent.” She has come to be even more grateful for all that her parents did to support her time in 4-H and is forever thankful for all the experiences she has gotten through this organization.

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