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2017 World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute

UHS Students Present Critical Solutions During World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute

On April 24, 2017, four Urbandale High School (UHS) students participated in the sixth annual World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University. Hundreds of students from across the state gathered to discuss critical issues related to global food security and discover academic and career paths in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Each student wrote a research paper focusing on food security in a developing country. Students were responsible for using their knowledge of the country and the issue at hand to then develop a potential solution.

At the event, students presented their research in roundtable discussion groups where they received feedback from experts in the field of food security along with peers from across the state. Students attended immersion sessions on campus where they gained first-hand knowledge of various career areas. Students also had the opportunity to learn from industrial agriculture leaders in addition to Governor Terry Brandstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds. Following this event, 75 students from across the state with the best potential solutions will be chosen to represent their schools at The World Food Prize Global Institute in October 2017.

Mentored by UHS Extended Learning Program Teacher Karlee McKibban , the following UHS students researched and presented their innovative solutions:

  • Dino Arslanovic researched climate volatility in Bangladesh
  • Adam Banwell researched biofuels in Nigeria
  • Charles Harman researched malnutrition in Chad
  • Varun Vepa researched animal agriculture in Angola

“I’m proud of these students for all of their hard work,” said McKibban. “The information needed for these papers can be very difficult to find. Every year I have students start the process and not finish, but these students stuck it out and it definitely paid off.”

UHS students attending 2017 World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute

UHS Students attending 2017 World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute: Varun Vepa, Charlie Harman, Adam Banwell and Dino Arslanovic.

“My time at the World Food Prize helped me further my knowledge not only on how our food is affected by many factors but also how the factors are interlinked together,” said UHS junior Arslanovic.

“The roundtable discussions opened my eyes to how people living in other countries compare to own lives,” said UHS junior Banwell.

“It was a challenging project to say the least, but definitely a fun endeavor that if you have any interest in world hunger you should follow,” said UHS junior Harman.

“It really opened my eyes to the fact that despite all of our differences, every person needs food and that it’s up to us to make sure it happens,” said UHS sophomore Vepa.

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 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, 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.

The Urbandale Community School District congratulates McKibban and students for their tenacity to research and present vital solutions impacting our global community, their willingness to think of new ideas and propose innovative solutions for consideration by industry, state, and world leaders, and their exceptional representation of Urbandale High School with peers from across the state. Well-done!