First-Ever World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute A Success

First-Ever World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute A Success

High school students got an inside look at global careers in food, agriculture and the environment by attending first annual World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute.

The World Food Prize Foundation on April 30 connected the next generation of Iowa scientists, humanitarians and business executives with current leaders in these fields during a truly unique program. It was the first annual World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute and it was held on the ISU campus at Ames. Over 250 high school students and their teachers from high schools across Iowa, gathered on Iowa State University campus for a day of events focused on inspiring youth to pursue educational and career opportunities in science, agriculture, engineering and other areas on a global level.

Nearly 150 Iowa high school students met with experts on food and agriculture issues at the first annual World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute April 30 at ISU in Ames. The students, each accompanied by a high school teacher, and the specialists in various fields of study explored global food and agriculture problems.

The day was filled with interactive workshops. Students discussed their own solutions for global problems such as water scarcity and climate change in countries ranging from Kenya to Bangladesh, and how to feed 9 billion global citizens by the year 2050. They also discovered how their interests, whether in science or the humanities, intersect with current research endeavors and ongoing efforts to solve global challenges through tours of labs and interactive activities with faculty.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa State University President Steven Leath, and World Food Prize President, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, all spoke at the event. The event was made possible by generous financial support from Paul and Claudia Schickler, who also addressed the students.

80 of these students will be chosen to take part in global program this fall

Students had to write a 5-page research paper on the topic of food and agriculture, choosing some aspect of that topic to write about and make a presentation. Recurring themes from the student presentations included respect for local culture, customs and history as well as ideas to improve food production, distribution and water access. Paul Schickler, who along with his wife donated $400,000 to the World Food Prize Foundation, said the enthusiasm of the students is a source of hope.

"To see the interest and passion they have is pretty stimulating," he noted. "It gives you a higher level of confidence that the future is bright." The top 80 of these students at the April 30 event will participate this fall in the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, which brings together students from other states and nations to learn about food security. The fall event takes place during the annual World Food Prize Symposium, or Borlaug Dialogue, which attracts leading scientists, economists and others interested in food and agricultural policy. The come from all over the world.

Students share ideas to combat poverty and hunger on a planet bursting from population growth.

"The World Food Prize is among my favorite 'extra' activities for my students," says Gail Kunch, Environmental Science teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Fort Madison. "This program introduces students to broader subject areas and allows them to use their critical thinking skills to understand global issues and begin to make assessments on how they can solve world problems. The World Food Prize fits into all areas of my curricula and enhances my teaching of 21st Century Skills and Iowa Core." 

Student Hannah Pagel, a junior from Sumner-Fredericksburg High School, said she got involved and wrote the required five-page research paper because she wants to help others and find careers that will help her do that.

"I decided to participate in the Iowa Youth Institute because I have always been interested in agriculture and how it impacts my life and others around me," Hannah Pagel said. "This program is very unique because it is designed to have teenagers like myself be educated about global issues. I learned a lot through my research of Ghana. Allowing youth to participate in these events will allow a different perspective to help stop world hunger. I also will be able to connect with professionals in the agriculture industry, such as leaders in agriculture and professors."

Career opportunities right here in Iowa, which can have a worldwide impact

Governor Terry Branstad had lunch with students and addressed them during a keynote. "The World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute is exactly the kind of innovative program we need in Iowa to help young people explore the wonderful career opportunities we have available right here at home, which can have a worldwide impact," Branstad said.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds added, "Listening to these very bright young students talk about these complex issues so eloquently is impressive, and this program truly shows what can happen when the private, public and nonprofit sectors come together around education."

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, explained that the primary goal of the event is to get students excited about the huge variety of career paths available to them, and to show them how they can make a difference in the world. "The goal of this program is to inspire the next generation of scientific and humanitarian heroes to help solve global issues, just like our Iowa hero Dr. Norman Borlaug did," Quinn said.

This annual event is one of the most important things ISU has done with WFP

Steven Leath, the new president of Iowa State University, hosted the daylong event. "Iowa State has enjoyed a wonderful partnership with the World Food Prize for over two decades, and this institute involving Iowa youth is one of the most important things we've done together," Leath said. "Our young people have a critical role to play in meeting the world's food challenges, and we want them to be exposed to the many different career options available."

"Engaging the next generation of leaders is critical to bringing new ideas and solutions to solving global food security issues," said Paul Schickler, whose financial contribution helped make the Iowa Youth Institute possible. "Programs like the World Food Prize Youth Institute support youth in achieving their vision for the future of agriculture by providing unique experiences and supporting teachers. Claudia and I are confident that what we see and hear today from the students is just a first glimpse of what they will accomplish in the future."

More information is available online at   

BACKGROUND ON WORLD FOOD PRIZE YOUTH PROGRAMS: The World Food Prize holds statewide youth institutes in several states. The top students each year and others from around the country are invited to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in October, where they participate in other World Food Prize events such as the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium, which last year drew 1,400 people from 75 countries, and the Laureate Award Ceremony. They interact with experts, participate in hunger relief programs and activities, and present their research findings to peers and global leaders.

Over 20 students each year are accepted as Borlaug-Ruan International Interns, and are sent on all-expenses-paid, eight-week internships at research centers in Asia, Africa, Latin American and the Middle East. Finally, students who participate in the World Food Prize youth programs are also eligible to apply for Wallace-Carver internships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

ABOUT THE WORLD FOOD PRIZE: The World Food Prize was founded in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, The World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. Laureates have been recognized from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the United States. The World Food Prize Foundation is based in Des Moines, Iowa, in the United States.

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