The World Food Prize Foundation

The Borlaug Blog

Why Does the World Food Prize Do What They Do?

By Alana Platte
2016 George Washington Carver Intern

My experiences with the World Food Prize have been nothing short of exhilarating. Five years ago, my high school agricultural education instructor, Ellen Doese, approached me with the idea of attending the Iowa Youth Institute as a “guinea pig” for my school. No other student had participated before, and she had heard excellent reviews from other educators. 

I vividly remember the feeling of walking into the conference held at Iowa State University’s campus. My instructor and I were nervous, not knowing what to expect. Soon, these nerves were at ease with the welcoming World Food Prize staff, an abundance of other high school participants, and a very well-thought-out agenda. My instructor and I were in awe of how incredible the program was. This was my first time truly interacting with individuals who have similar interests and passions for fighting global challenges, and it left me inspired. 

One month after the Iowa Youth Institute, I received word that I was selected to attend the Global Youth Institute. Again, my instructor and I were amazed to see how much attention the staff put on even the slightest details at this event. For example, they had beautiful glass globes placed at the center of our dinner table for the week and a golden seal impressed onto our Borlaug Scholar certificates we received for participation. 

Attending the Global Youth Institute later led me to a Borlaug-Ruan International Internship where I was placed in Guatemala for two months. There I conducted research relating to malnutrition issues that I had previously discussed with other students during both the Iowa Youth Institute and Global Youth Institute. I had such a safe and positive experience during my stay in Guatemala due to the hard work of the World Food Prize staff. They checked in with me to see how my research project and time with my host family were going, always mitigating issues if needed. With their guidance and supervision, I could have stayed there forever.

When I returned home with all of these new-found ideas and passions, it made the most sense for me to continue my involvement with the World Food Prize as a George Washington Carver Intern to delve further into their programs. In this role, I worked closely with the individuals who had made all of my previous experiences possible. Most of my projects were in preparation of fall activities and events week, but my most extensive project was planning the Leadership Symposium held in Washington, DC for the USDA Wallace-Carver Fellows. This program was new to me but just as exciting as the rest. 

In all of these experiences with the World Food Prize, I have found myself continually asking “Why does the WFP do what they do? Why do they pay so much attention to the finer details, making things seem as close to perfect as possible?” The answer came to me during my most recent involvement with their events. This past October, I served on the Reserve Corp helping during the week of the Borlaug Dialogue held in Des Moines, Iowa. I helped to implement the plans that they had worked so hard to develop over the past year. Throughout the week, I witnessed lengthy staff meetings to close already very long days and a few nights of staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning to ensure all of the details for the next day were in place. 

While I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, I have heard several stories of times when he would be in a room full of experts but chose to talk to the youth instead. His primary focus was always on youth engagement and education; that is the main reason for the inception of the World Food Prize youth programs in 1994. It is outstanding to see how, 24 years later, a small team with a big heart has rallied together to unite individuals in continuing the work of Dr. Borlaug. Their attention to detail at these events goes to show how dedicated they are to making these experiences memorable and inspiring for all. 

As always, I am very appreciative of the hard work of the World Food Prize staff; they have been instrumental in shaping the way that I see the world today.

02/04/2019 9:07 AM |Add a comment |Comments (2)
Your blog brings home what we all hope to achieve when a young high school student come to one of our youth institutes for the first time. You have experienced the full range of all of our youth opportunities, and the result can be seen in the inspiration of Dr. Borlaug that you feel, even though you never met hi.

Kenneth Quinn | 02/10/2019 2:59 AM
It’s great to hear your testimony, Alana! I’m encouraging several 4-H and FFA members in my community to take part in our state institute and I’ll share this with them. My daughter is a former Global Youth Institute delegate who’s currently applying for a Borlaug-Ruan Internship. As a mom I’m happy to hear you had such a great experience and the World Food Prize staff was so helpful to you.

Sue Stuever Battel | | 02/04/2019 9:34 AM
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