Referred to as the most significant event to inspire Iowa high school students on global issues in STEM, the World Food Prize Foundation Iowa Youth Institute (IYI) celebrated its 10th Anniversary today, with over 250 Iowa high school students from 102 high schools across the state participating virtually.
Endowed by former DuPont Pioneer President, Paul Schickler, and his wife Claudia, the IYI in partnership with Iowa State University has inspired over 2,500 Iowa high school students since its inception.
“I was excited to partner with Iowa State University to engage high school students in the agricultural and food challenges in the developing world, and to motivate them to pursue an education, and even a career, to help solve those challenges,” said Schickler, also Chairman, World Food Prize Council of Advisors. “Ten years later, nearly all school districts in Iowa participate and thousands of students have dedicated their education, service and even their careers to helping to advance agricultural productivity and food security around the world. Thank you to Iowa State University, Iowa high school administrators and teachers and to the students for making such an impact.”
The Iowa Youth Institute connects students interested in science, agriculture and related fields with Iowa leaders and innovators on the cutting edge of technology and research. Each participating high school student wrote a research paper on a key issue that impacts food security in another country, such as water scarcity or gender inequality. The students propose their own solutions in small-group roundtable discussions facilitated by academic and industry experts. Students and teachers also participate in virtual immersion activities based in research facilities and labs organized and hosted by Iowa State University.
“Each year, the quality and depth of student analysis and solutions astounds me, as students tackle some of the toughest global challenges we face in climate change, sustainable agriculture, hunger and malnutrition,” said Barbara Stinson, President, World Food Prize Foundation.
“Iowa State University is deeply proud to mark ten years of partnering with the World Food Prize Foundation to provide this premier educational opportunity,” said Wendy Wintersteen, President, Iowa State University. “Iowa State’s role in the Iowa Youth Institute is supported by the dedicated and tireless efforts of so many individuals in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, including leaders like David Acker, Professor and Associate Dean for Global Engagement. We know that building a diverse pipeline of talent and innovation is essential for addressing the grand challenges of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition, and this program has been incredibly successful at doing just that.”
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation shifted the delivery of Institutes to a completely virtual platform. This year's Iowa Youth Institute also is offered online, to protect the health and safety and provide greater accessibility to Iowa’s students.
"Iowa Youth Institute is the highlight of the year for many of my students. They enjoy the camaraderie they find among the students with similar interests and goals as well as their outlook on social justice issues discussed at the institute," said Gail Kunch, educator at Danville Community Schools. "Making the world a better place and ensuring everyone gets enough healthy and nutritious food is a goal they can easily reach during high school and in their future endeavors. Iowa Youth Institute allows them to share their ideas and gain knowledge to enhance their productivity in their communities, regions, and beyond to combat hunger and increase food security. I am proud to take my students to such a conference, and I feel that it brings knowledge and positivity into their world."
This year, the event expanded over two days to ensure students receive a more personal experience through smaller discussion groups. The event included an address from Keynote speaker Eric Mitchell, Executive Director of the Alliance to End Hunger. Additionally, students participated in a new session focused on engaging and elevating the voices of youth in preparation for the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. Feedback provided by students will be conveyed to world leaders as they consider the most pressing issues for the upcoming Summit.
Since the first Iowa Youth Institute in 2012, there are now 25 states and three countries that host youth institutes each year. From these youth institutes, students can be chosen to attend the Global Youth Institute in the fall. Over 2,000 Iowa high school students and 400 teachers have participated in the Global Youth Institute. Both the Iowa and Global Youth Institutes are offered at no cost to students or teachers.
“We are excited to see the enthusiasm for this program grow year after year as more young Iowans are inspired to make our world a better place,” said Wintersteen.