As her high school graduation approached last spring, Hannah Christopherson was looking for ways to pay for her college education and was intrigued by the Tooele County Dairy Princess program, despite having never set foot on a dairy farm.
Less than a year later, Christopherson has become one of the state’s dairy ambassadors, spreading the message about dairy products’ nutritional value statewide.
“It’s a great honor,” Christopherson said. “In Tooele, there aren’t any dairy farms, so we have to spend even more time promoting it just so people can be knowledgeable in that subject, just because it’s not really around them. Being able to come from Tooele and represent the state … It’s cool to come from a smaller place like that and be able to teach others and share our message with them.’’
Christopherson didn’t know much about dairy when she first applied for the program, but she did know about nutrition, so she began studying to learn more about dairy farms and products. Through her studies, she came up with a presentation that compared the health benefits of dairy products to other things such as soda and candy, and was named Tooele County Dairy Princess last year.
“To my surprise, I got the position, so since then, I’ve been doing little presentations and service projects in Tooele, promoting dairy,” she said. “I’ve gotten to spend time with kids and a lot of people in the community, getting to know them better while getting to teach them as well.”
Since becoming a part of the program, she has had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm and see how everything works, giving her a greater appreciation for what it takes to get a jug of milk or a gallon of ice cream to store shelves.
“That was really cool to see all the hard work that goes into it,” she said. “It’s a full-time job. A lot of people just go to the store, buy their milk and drink it and they don’t understand how it got there.”
She and her attendants gave presentations to kids at a 4-H convention, and also volunteered at the National Veterans’ Wheelchair Games. She has also given presentations to kids at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City about the health benefits of dairy, and will soon be taking her presentation to elementary schools throughout the state.
Part of her presentation focuses on how something like chocolate milk can serve as a valuable recovery drink after exercise, as well as a healthy alternative to other sweets.
“When you compare the health benefits of, say, chocolate milk compared to a [sports drink] post-workout, [sports drinks don’t] have any protein in it, which you need,” said Christopherson, noting that some people cut dairy from their diets because of the fat content. “It doesn’t have any essential vitamins or anything like that. It doen’t have any fat, which chocolate milk does have, but your body does need a little bit of fat, just in moderation. Chocolate milk right now is actually known as the best recovery drink because of the protein and sugars it has in it, and 90 percent of it is water, so it is able to rehydrate your body along with giving you back the protein that you need.”
A few weeks ago, Christopherson took part in the state dairy ambassador competition, where she gave the same presentation she did during the Tooele County competition. She had an interview with judges about her personal life and her dairy knowledge, and also had to submit a resume. She ultimately was chosen as one of two ambassadors for the state.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. ‘I’ve been able to meet a lot of great people in my community and in the state as a whole. You can make a difference no matter what you’re a part of, but being a part of these programs has really helped me to have a voice and have the opportunity to serve people.”
Service has been an ongoing theme in Christopherson’s life. She was a student body officer and a member of the National Honor Society at Stansbury High School, and was also president of the Rotary Interact Club in addition to her volunteer work at Primary Children’s Hospital. She hopes to bring her message to the kids at the hospital as well.
“At Primary Children’s, I was thinking of doing some sort of dairy day or dairy convention … where kids could come and get a little break from their hospital room and play some games and maybe make ice cream, mozzarella cheese and butter and interact with some other kids,” she said.
Her time as a volunteer at Primary Children’s has also inspired her future career choice as a child life specialist. She currently is majoring in human development and nutrition at Brigham Young University.
“The child life specialists are kind of the kids’ best friends and they give the kids a social life that feels a little more normal,” she said. “Just seeing the difference they make in the kids’ lives, I think I would love to be a child life specialist myself.”
Christopherson said her experience in the dairy ambassador program has been beyond anything she could have imagined.
“I would have never thought that being involved in a program that’s all about promoting dairy would have allowed me to serve so many people and made me feel like I was making a difference and helping people nutrition-wise,” she said. “I’ve met so many new cool people and gained a greater appreciation for farmers and all the work that goes into making dairy products. I never would have thought that being part of this program would have done that for me and allowed me to have all these neat experiences.”