According to one alumni participant, “The Youth Institute can change lives.” For her it meant an eventual connection with the World Food Prize and a trip to do food, nutrition, and health service in India.
On April 25, nearly 300 high school students participated in the Iowa Youth Institute on the Iowa State University campus. Some of them will eventually attend the World Food Prize, and a few will achieve scholarships to work with ag programs around the world. But all of them gain from the experience as they learn about the dynamic world of agriculture.
Participants gather from schools throughout Iowa, and the Youth Institute has been a model for more than 17 other states. During the day they share research, meet for roundtable discussions, and learn from many experts. “My report is about poor soil quality in Haiti,” said one student from Johnston High School near Des Moines. She hopes to travel to the impoverished island someday to help solve the problems associated with inadequate growing conditions for a hungry population.
Many of the students have never lived on a farm, but they realize the importance of agriculture and the need to make connections. Their interests range from helping with hunger programs to researching CRISPR techniques in genetics labs. “I just want to solve problems and help people,” said a junior from Keokuk. She is interested in a medical career, but this is her second visit to the Youth Institute. “I enjoyed it last year. It’s a great way to meet others and share information.”
The spirit of Norman Borlaug floats through the event, and most of the participants know him as the “scientist from small-town Iowa who helped feed millions.” The world needs more Normans—whether they be male or female, rural or urban, farmers or scientists. The Youth Institute is opening the door to the young people who can step up to the task.
by dan gogerty (photos from the Iowa Youth Institute WFP site)