Betsy Sahlstrom said she is and will be proud of any of her kids as long
as they’re happy and have integrity in whatever they do. However, she,
husband Kevin, and their family have had to agree that it’s pretty special to have their son and brother, Adam, beginning Yale School of Medicine this fall.
Yes, the school that is associated with Ivy League Yale University in Connecticut. The Sahlstroms have learned it admits about 105 students each year.
The family has lived in Onamia for 17 years and includes Adam, Anna, Besty, Bella, Jacob, Justus, Kevin, Nat and Noah, as well as 10 grandchildren. Betsy works as the school nurse in Onamia, but she said Milaca is where the family attends church, where the kids go to school and where “their people” are.
Adam graduated Milaca High School in 2007. He’d enlisted in the Army while he still lived here, so post-graduation was a combination of service and attending Concordia in Moorhead to study biology and chemistry.
The Sahlstroms endured tragedy when they lost Adam’s brother, Noah, to cancer in 2011. Betsy said she can imagine the loss affected Adam deeply since of the seven siblings, he and Noah were one year apart in age and pretty much inseparable. She said they shared some similar characteristics: Height – Adam is 6 feet, 8 inches and Noah was 6 feet, 6 inches – a good sense of humor and silliness.
While the loss rocked everyone to the core, a pity party was not in order. Everyone agreed that Noah would not want any of them to be limited by grief, so the family agreed they would “live well to honor him.”
“Noah is a huge part of our story,” Betsy said, “every one of our stories. We decided we’d either get bitter or get better.”
She knows now that Noah’s death somewhat fueled Adam in his study and service, because he poured himself into those things to do something positive. His efforts resulted in stellar college grades at graduation in 2012 and a still-building, honorable record of military service with Army first and now National Guard.
After college, he moved to the Bronx, New York where he lived for three years and taught for a program that serves low-income schools. Meanwhile, he chose medic as his Army specialty and traveled to Cameroon, Africa to help set up medical unit there.
Betsy said, “Adam comes from a long line of nurses,” including grandmother, uncles, aunts and others.
Adam began applying to medical schools while in Kuwait, and his mom said he did a lot of video interviews. Yale was not the only school that accepted him, but it offered some competitive scholarships. He returned from Kuwait and learned he’d been promoted to captain shortly before he reported to Yale for the traditional white-coat ceremony.
Betsy said she hesitated a little to share the story but ultimately thinks it’s a nice reminder that people can do anything if they work hard at it. She said Kevin, who grew up in Onamia, were farm kids who put themselves through college, and they’ve not paid for any of their kids to go to college.
Adam chose military service because of the educational possibilities it offers, and now another son, Jacob, joined the National Guard and leaves Sept. 11 to become a Calvary Scout. She thinks it’s exciting to know that “yes, you can be a small-town kid from the farm” and do things like go to college or trade school or achieve other goals.
“I think where there is a will, there’s a way,” Betsy said.
The family also wants the Milaca community to be proud for itself. The Sahlstroms thinks it makes a big difference in people’s success where they grew up and the people they had around them as they grew.