Five high school students from Wisconsin recently returned from the Global Youth Institute (GYI) in Des Moines, Iowa, where they participated as the state’s youth delegates. The institute, which took place Oct. 16-19 during the annual World Food Prize International Symposium, is an opportunity for high school students to gather together with peers, educators, researchers and policy makers from around the nation and the world to discuss challenges and solutions to world hunger and poverty.
“It was such an incredible experience. I was surrounded by amazing youth from all walks of life, and I loved learning about many of their [presentation] topics,” says Nyan Lues, a student at LaFollette High School in Madison, whose GYI presentation focused on sustainable soy farming in Argentina. “I had no idea about the array of careers related to agriculture that I could pursue. It was so inspiring to know that any person there had the ability to create a local or global impact on the world.”
In addition to Lues, Wisconsin’s student delegates to the 2019 GYI included Anna Brink from Plymouth High School; Margaret Colwell and Cael Schoemann from Hartford Union High School; and Sydney Hensen from DeForest High School.
“I was very fortunate to make a lot of friends that I was able to connect with and form such strong bonds [with] through the course of a few days,” says Hensen, whose presentation focused on how to support poor, rural households in Costa Rica. “These individuals helped change my perspective on what I want to do in my life to further help this world with the food crisis.”
The Wisconsin delegates were selected during the fifth annual Wisconsin Youth Institute (WYI) event hosted by the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences this past April. To participate in the WYI, students research, write and submit a paper about a global food security issue under the supervision of a teacher or mentor. During the day-long WYI program, they present and discuss their research papers with their peers and university faculty, staff and graduate students. They also tour the UW–Madison campus and learn about student research opportunities at the university. Sixty-nine high school students participated in the WYI this year, and five were selected to attend the GYI as Wisconsin delegates.
Educators who choose to attend the Global Youth Institute as chaperones have the opportunity to participate in professional development programming. This year, three high school teachers went to Iowa with the Wisconsin group: Kevin Martin and Bill Schliewe from Hartford Union High School, and Angie Midthuna-Hensen from Verona High School.
“I have been teaching for 17 years, and the four days in Iowa were some of the most meaningful and passion-invoking days in my career,” says Schliewe, who teaches English. “Between listening to the president of the Congo, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and World Food Prize Laureate Simon Groot, the days were filled with messages of hope. Everywhere you turned at the event, students were being encouraged to be more and do more than they ever imagined.”
Plia Xiong, prospective student services coordinator for UW–Madison CALS, organized and led the trip to Iowa. She also coordinates and oversees the WYI event. Lauren Jorgensen, a fellow with UW–Madison’s International Division, also attended the GYI as a chaperone.