Years in the show ring prepare MU student for challenges ahead

When Jenni Nicole Trentmann decided she wanted to be in the Child Life Specialist program at the University of Missouri in 2014, she didn’t realize the struggles she would endure. Luckily, years spent showing pigs and participating in 4-H helped to prepare her for challenges, even though she didn’t realize it at the time.

The program is an emphasis area of the Human Development and Family Studies degree.

Trentmann is currently in the application and acceptance process into the program’s practicum, which is where she will apply the skills she has learned during course work in a hospital setting.

For the last three years, she has dedicated all of her time to reaching this goal. Trentmann says that acceptance into the program would be life changing for her.

A Child Life Specialist helps infants, children and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement. The process of becoming a certified Child Life Specialist is difficult. With many steps and multiple interviews you must pass to get into the program, its one of the most competitive fields in which to obtain an internship. What makes it more challenging is the limited number of internships available, as each hospital only accepts one candidate.

Discussing the process of interviewing, a combination of excitement, stress and worry is apparent in Trentmann’s voice and expressions. Even with the hard work she has put in for more than three years, she isn’t certain it was enough. 

Her passion is children and getting them through the hard times in life. Trentmann’s goal is to increase coping skills along with promoting their optimal growth and development in the health care environment.

Her drive for success, comes from experiences during her childhood. Growing up, Trentmann raised and showed pigs at the Washington Town and Country Fair through her local 4-H club as a project. Trentmann said at the time she didn’t realize what the experience was doing for her and thought of it as something fun to do with her friends.

As the years have gone by, she realizes how working with the pigs affected the choices she has made towards her future. Through 4-H she learned that the care necessary to produce healthy livestock is similar to that she’ll give as a Child Life Specialist, as far as nurturing and helping children stay on track developmentally.

Trentmann says the biggest thing it taught her was an appreciation for hard work as she had to get up early and feed her animals, water, groom, and walk the pigs. Her first year showing, though, she didn’t get a blue ribbon and it crushed her.

 “All my friends got a blue ribbon and I got a red ribbon,” Trentmann said. “I still got to sell my pig but was upset because I didn’t place in my class at all.” 

She used that year as a learning experience and researched what she needed to do to raise healthy and “show” worthy pigs. Not finishing at the top level the previous year drove her to work harder to receive a blue ribbon and place in her class, which she did every year after.   

“It was hard work and I never gave up,” she said. “It taught me to have good sportsmanship, and I think it now helps me in life and the hurdles I have to go through today. I know if I work hard for what I want and don’t give up, I will get where I want to be in life. I can thank 4-H and being involved in agriculture for that.”   

Trentmann`s dad, Chris Trentmann, said when Jenni was young he gave her many tasks and responsibilities. As a 9-year-old, she would be in the pen cleaning her pigs, grooming, and walking them by herself. 

“What 9-year-old girl would normally do that?” he said.

 One of Trentmann’s close friends, Lea Bierbaum, starting out showing with Trentmann. They kept their pigs together at Bierbaum’s family dairy farm.

“We would be with our pigs every day,” Bierbaum said. “It didn’t matter what we were doing with them, we were always with them.  At the time, I didn’t realize it as much as I do now, but it was so much fun. Even when we were working hard, we always made it a blast! There was never a dull moment with us.”

Bierbaum can see the realtion between raising and showing pigs and Jenni`s approach to life.

“I think by Jenni showing market hogs she shows the same drive of caring about her homework and every job she’s ever had,” Bierbaum said. “I also think it has helped her with her confidence. When you get out in front of hundreds of people and show and sell your pig it’s not easy. It takes guts and I think from that Jenni has really gained a lot of confidence from that experience in her life.”

For now, Trentmann is using this confidence and drive to achieve her goal and gain an internship in the Child Life program.

“I never realized how hard this would be,” Trentmann said. “But I know it will all be worth it in the end”.

Katie Irwin

About the Author Katie Irwin