Youth engaging as change-makers in global food security and food access

Meet the 2016 World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute delegates who will be representing the state at the Global Youth Institute this fall.

The World Food Prize was founded by Norman Borlaug and is known as a parallel to the Nobel Peace Prize, but for work in global food security and food access. Shortly after Borlaug founded the World Food Prize, he started the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute. In doing so, he formally recognized the importance of engaging young people in critical conversations about the world’s most wicked of problems. It is because of the Global Youth Institute that we now have the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute.

The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute, in its current form, was started in 2015. The goal of this program is to provide youth leaders in Michigan with the opportunity and network to make a positive difference in a global problem. It is coordinated by educators with Michigan 4-H and put on in partnership by Michigan 4-H, Michigan State University Extension, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources as well as Michigan FFA.

As a MSU pre-college program, one of the many goals of the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute is to introduce high school youth to a college-like experience. Once on campus for the program, participants interact with MSU faculty, go on immersion experiences to one of MSU's many successful research ventures and discuss various programs of study available with department representatives over lunch in the cafeteria. Because the Michigan Youth Institute is a pre-college program, ninth grade participants are eligible to apply for a MSU pre-college scholarship to be awarded when they graduate.

The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute is also an opportunity that helps young people practice important life skills, such as professional networking, public speaking, critical questioning and engaged citizenry. In preparation for the event, youth participants work with a mentor-like adult to write a research paper about a developing nation and that nation's food security based on a particular factor. The factors are the piece of this process that make World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute potentially appealing to a diverse audience of youth. They expand the perceived lens of global food insecurity from topics directly connected to agriculture and the food chain, to broader transdisciplinary themes. Factors include human rights, water quality and scarcity, human disease, conflict resolution, education and climate volatility. The 20 factors that create a lens for participants to write their research papers are a way to get youth with diverse interests engaged as hunger fighters and highlight the need for interdisciplinary solutions to global food security challenges.

The youth submit research papers, which they use to inform their public presentation at the Michigan Youth Institute. These presentations are given to a round table audience of MSU faculty experts, Michigan community-based experts and MSU Extension staff. Throughout the day, continual dialogue keeps minds active and hearts engaged. Connecting youth in Michigan to others, peers and experts alike, helps inspire and encourage continued efforts toward a solution to the global struggle that affects the entire human family.

Participants from the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute are selected, based on their paper submission and public presentation, to represent the state of Michigan at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute. At the Global Youth Institute, Michigan delegates and their accompanying mentor-like adults get to continue engaging in dialogue around global food security and food access; only this time with peers and experts from around the United States and beyond!

We are excited to announce that in 2016, Michigan will be represented by six impressive youth delegates:

  • Pearl Daskam, who will be a freshman in Sanilac County, is involved in 4-H and FFA. She wrote her World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute research paper on the current state of sustainable agriculture in Samoa, and how that impacts Samoan food security. Tamara Daskam is Pearl’s teacher/mentor.
  • Omari Garrett is a junior from Ecotek Lab in Wayne County. He is a member of the National Honors Society (NHS) and wrote his paper on the impacts of current water sanitation on food security in India. Keith Young is Garrett’s teacher/mentor.
  • Nathan Laurenz will graduate from his Midland County high school in 2018. He is involved in many extracurricular activities including 4-H, FFA, NHS, Business Professional of America and his school’s bands. He completed his World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute research on animal agriculture in Ecuador. Lisa Gregory is Laurenz’s teacher/mentor.
  • Yesha Patel will graduate next year from her Wayne County high school. She is active in her school, participating in NHS, student government and band, and wrote her Michigan Youth Institute paper on the impacts of climate volatility on food security in Bangladesh. Patel’s teacher/mentor is Diana Johns.
  • Andrew Smith is starting his sophomore year at his Huron County high school this fall. He is engaged in FFA, NHS and science Olympiad at his school. Smith wrote his paper about Haiti’s food security and impacts of climate. His mentor is Haley Schulz.
  • Kaylee Weise will graduate in 2017 from her Huron County high school. She is involved outside of the classroom in FFA, NHS and science Olympiad. Weise explored the impacts of water scarcity on Ethiopia’s food security in her paper, and her mentor is also Haley Schulz.

We wish to congratulate these and all the other fine young people who are making efforts to be leaders not only in their home town or state, but in the entire world. MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program helps to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences, like the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute, and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”

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