Fort Dodge Senior High School student Bella Chou joined other top students from across Iowa last month to explore scientific, agricultural and global career opportunities at the World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University.
The day was filled with interactive workshops. Students, who had all researched and written a 5-page paper on a global food security topic, presented their innovative solutions to global problems and also saw how their interests intersect with real-world careers during interactive activities and lab tours on campus.
Chou presented on expanding microfinance programs to improve nutrition in the Philippines and was accompanied at the event by teacher Deb Hoover.
Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa State University President Steven Leath, Dupont Pioneer President Paul Schickler and World Food Prize President Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn spoke at the event.
The event has been life-changing for many students. Rebecca Nellis, a student at Prairie Valley High School, attended both this year and last year. After last year's experience, she and her 4-H club began a meal-packaging initiative, and she plans to study food chemistry and human nutrition in college.
"The Iowa Youth Institute on world hunger introduced me to people who have made a difference in the world and inspired me to do the same," Nellis said. "I chose to take an independent studies class this year at Prairie Valley High School where I study food alternatives to supplement malnourished children. I would have never considered a career choice like this if it weren't for the program."
During lunch, while students rubbed elbows with the state's business leaders and other experts, teachers spanning multiple disciplines from around the state collaborated and discussed how to integrate global issues and food security into their curricula.
Branstad had lunch with students and also addressed them during a keynote speech. "Students, your participation today at this truly unique program the World Food Prize has created is a significant first step in shaping your future education, your careers, and your lives," Branstad said. "Dr. Borlaug, who founded the World Food Prize, was passionately committed to science and its potential to improve lives, produce more food, and eliminate poverty. His life is an inspiration for all of you here today - it's up to you to set the course for the 21st century."
Reynolds also spoke. "As the co-chair of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council, I am thrilled to see this room so full of students and teachers, all here today to explore pathways toward careers that will solve the real-world challenges of the 21st century," she said. "The World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute is STEM Education at its best, and the enthusiastic, talented students attending prove we have a promising future ahead."