15 Years with the Global Youth Institute
I have had the pleasure to bring students to the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute since 2004. This has provided me the unique opportunity to watch the organization grow and become a major player in the world food security arena. I was encouraged to participate in my first World Food Prize by then Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. At that time he asked me to just consider the program. When the Governor asks you to look into something for your students, you know it must be worth examining.
After deciding to participate in the program, my first student was a Vietnamese immigrant, Thuy Huynh. Walking into the program not knowing the President of the Foundation spoke Vietnamese, it was especially touching when he spoke to her in her native language. Thuy did not immediately reply and Ambassador Quinn apologized to her for the confusion. She told him she was so shocked and pleased that someone who is not Vietnamese spoke to her in her language that she did not know how to respond, and they went on to have a long conversation. This would not be the first time I would be surprised by what the World Food Prize could do for my students.
Thuy would become my first student to be a Borlaug-Ruan International Intern. She traveled to Brazil for her 8-week internship. It was an amazing experience with the help of Lisa Fleming, then the Director of Youth Programs at the World Food Prize.
At the end of the week, teachers, students, experts and Laureates all gathered in the auditorium at Pioneer in Johnston, and at that time we all fit. Now the program has expanded so much that the students alone are nearly overflowing the same space!
The students also sat in the balcony of the House chambers during the Laureate Award Ceremony. I had several opportunities to hear Dr. Borlaug speak and speak to him one on one. He was an incredible gift to the world, and my students and I always felt inspired after hearing and talking to him.
The WFP Youth Institutes have always done an amazing job of organizing the students’ time and keeping track of all the students. I have never worried about my student once we arrive at GYI or IYI. The opportunities provided by GYI are often hard to describe but every one of my students has come away with a positive experience and several have returned as group leaders and/or participated in the USDA Wallace-Carver Fellowship, and some have gone on to play a part in the food security arena in their careers.
As the organization has grown, the experiences have only become even better for the students. The students and teachers now watch the ceremony from the Hall of Laureates and are visited by a variety of world dignitaries like former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The students still have the incredible opportunity to eat breakfast and lunch with Laureates and other world leaders in food security throughout the four-day event.
For many years, the WFP Youth Institutes have guided the beginning stages of my students’ exploration in global food security, and for many years to come, they will continue to foster the next generation of student leaders.