DES MOINES – Last Monday, the sixth annual World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute brought together 299 students from 131 high schools at Iowa State University to explore critical issues related to global food security and discover academic and career paths in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The Iowa Youth Institute has now reached over 64 percent of all Iowa high schools since its inauguration in 2011 and has been referred to as the most unique and innovative event to inspire Iowa high school students to focus on global issues and opportunities in STEM.
Mentored by Brandi Boyd, one student from Clarke Community Schools in Osceola participated this year. Alyssa Jackson researched climate volatility in Chad.
Governor Terry Branstad, as the luncheon speaker, spoke to the students about the importance of feeding the growing population. “I truly believe that there just may be one of you here today who will be able to follow in Norman Borlaug’s footsteps, who will make a similar breakthrough achievement, one that will help us meet the challenge of feeding the 9 billion people who will soon be on our planet. For you students, it is your generation that must meet this challenge—which is perhaps the greatest challenge agriculture has ever faced.”
Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds spoke about how crucial the STEM programs are to students in Iowa. “We need to have the most well-educated generation in the history of our state if we are to be able to do the research here on this campus, and to attract the companies and investors who will develop the new technologies that will enable us to produce more food, and more nutritious food, in a sustainable way.”
DuPont Pioneer Vice President and former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Krysta Harden, delivered the opening keynote address in which she said, “In the next 35 years, every single day, 150,000 people will be added to our population. That is four times the size of the student body at Iowa State. Does that make you scared? Does that make you think? Does that make you realize how important it is, these decisions that you make, these passions that you have, how you need to turn that into constructive, meaningful solutions.”
The Iowa State University Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Dr. Wendy Wintersteen expressed the impact that IYI hopes to have on students. “The World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute helps to demonstrate the connection between science and technology and the grand challenge of combating global hunger. The Youth Institute brings together students’ interests in combating societal issues with the sciences in agriculture and related areas that can address them.” She added that students attending the Iowa Youth Institute receive a $500 scholarship if they enroll in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University.
Other speakers at the event included Paul Schickler, former President of DuPont Pioneer and a member of the World Food Prize Council of Advisors; who together with his wife Claudia have generously supported the Iowa Youth Institute.
“It is wonderful to see the growth of the Iowa Youth Institute over the years,” said Paul Schickler. “That growth represents the power of academia, public institutions and people working together. Observing the students demonstrating their passion and commitment for bringing science to bear on some of the world’s most pressing challenges brings confidence to our future – and fulfills Norman Borlaug’s hope of engaging youth.”
The event included over 80 industry professionals and business leaders who served as discussion experts as students shared their research and ideas on how to combat global hunger and poverty. Honored guests include Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize and Kelsey Tyrrell, Director of Global Education Programs at the World Food Prize and a member of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council.
“Norman Borlaug’s dream was to have a program that would reach into every high school in the state to inspire students to become involved in his lifelong quest to eradicate hunger and uplift all people out of poverty and malnutrition,” said Amb. Kenneth M. Quinn, president of The World Food Prize Foundation. “The World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute, through its collaboration with Iowa State University and with the support of Iowa’s political leadership and agribusiness companies and farm and commodity groups, is far along in fulfilling that vision. With the essential dedication of teachers across the state, the Iowa Youth Institute has already involved 64 percent of Iowa high schools. It is the most unique effort in our state to inspire that next generation of young leaders to pursue education and careers in STEM and agriculture science.”
Dr. Norman Borlaug, Iowa’s greatest humanitarian-hero, whose statue is now enshrined in the U.S. Capitol for his exceptional agricultural and humanitarian achievements, founded the World Food Prize in 1986. Dr. Borlaug envisioned the World Food Prize youth programs as a way to inspire the next generation of scientists, policy makers, educators, and community leaders to pursue careers fighting hunger and poverty at home and abroad.
“IYI is one of the best experiences for students,” said Casey Dunley, an educator from Des Moines Roosevelt. “From researching real world issues, to generating viable solutions, to creating the paper based on the new learning, to today’s event; this is a wonderful opportunity to show students that they have the power to have an impact on the future.”
In order to participate, each student is required to write a research paper identifying a key issue -such as environmental volatility, nutrition, water scarcity or gender inequality - that impacts hunger in a developing country. They will then propose a solution and present their findings to a panel of peers and experts at the one-day event.
“What I appreciate most about the institute is that every student has the opportunity to apply their own unique talents to addressing food insecurity,” said Kelsey Tyrrell, director of Global Education Programs at the World Food Prize. “From education to engineering, it will take a multitude of professions working together to feed 9 billion people by 2050 and we need to ensure the fresh, innovative ideas of young adults are heard.”
“This is my first year at the Iowa Youth Institute and I think it’s a great opportunity to expand your mind and knowledge on subjects in the world and to increase awareness about the issues that are going on,” said Mone’t Malone, a student at Shenandoah Community School.