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Mason City students participate in World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute

Emma Yarahmadi, Gabrielle Johnson, Britta Elsbernd and Tabitha Ryal


AMES – On Monday, April 29th, the eighth annual World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute brought together 304 students from 130 high schools at Iowa State University to explore critical global food security issues and discover academic and career paths in STEM fields.

The Iowa Youth Institute has hosted participants from over 71 percent of Iowa high schools since its inaugural event in 2012 and has been referred to as the most unique and innovative event that inspires Iowa high school students to become global leaders.

“In gathering here for this event, I know that Dr. Norman Borlaug would want you to focus on the important mission of eliminating hunger around the world. It was that objective that motivated him every day of his life. It was that mission that took him from his boyhood farm in Northeast Iowa to Mexico, India, Pakistan, China, Africa, and all around the world,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. “My hope for all of you is that, having been here today, you will carry with you a part of Dr. Borlaug’s legacy and that as a member of the next generation of young Iowans, you will commit yourself to continue your education, build your careers, and conduct your lives focused on that goal, that unites us all and makes us so very proud to be Iowans: using the power of science and STEM to feed the world.”

Mentored by Dawn Guritz from Mason City High School, Britta Elsbernd researched infrastructure in Haiti; Emma Yarahmadi researched climate volatility in Honduras; Tabitha Ryal researched malnutrition in Cyprus; Gabrielle Johnson researched sustainable agriculture in Peru.

This innovative experience encourages students to explore academic and career paths in fields related to STEM, agriculture and global development and aims to inspire the next generation of leaders through authentic research presentations and networking opportunities with global experts.

“The Iowa Youth Institute showed me the power of agriculture in an unparalleled way. It’s opened my eyes to new career opportunities that I never would have considered prior to attending this event,” said Sibani Ram, a student at Western Dubuque High School. The Iowa Youth Institute is known for exposing young leaders to real-world opportunities that allow them to become part of a larger strategic plan to end hunger and poverty on a global scale.

To participate, students identify a challenge affecting food security within a specified country and propose their own solution to address the challenge. Students then present their ideas to a roundtable of peers and experts at the Iowa Youth Institute, participate in interactive activities in labs and classrooms on campus, and connect with innovative leaders from across the state. All students who participate automatically receive a $500 scholarship to Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and are eligible to apply for the prestigious Wallace-Carver Fellowship program in partnership with the USDA. The top Iowa participants will also be selected to join scientists and policy experts from around the world at the three-day World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in October.

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The 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 48 outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions throughout the world. The World Food Prize annually hosts the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium and a variety of youth education programs to help further the discussion on cutting-edge global food security issues and inspire the next generation to end hunger.

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