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Wisconsin high schoolers embrace virtual Global Youth Institute experience

Five high school students from Wisconsin recently participated in the Global Youth Institute (GYI) as the state’s youth delegates. The institute, which took place Oct. 9-23 during the annual World Food Prize International Symposium, provides an opportunity for high school students to gather with peers, educators, researchers and policy makers from around the nation and the world to discuss challenges and solutions to world hunger and poverty. This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the institute and the symposium took place virtually.

“My favorite part of the Global Youth Institute would have to be the feedback and input of all the experts,” says Isabelle Klink, a student at Hartford Union High School, whose GYI presentation focused on water scarcity issues in Somalia. “I got to meet and interact with so many new people who have worked to solve the issues outlined in my [presentation]. They showed me the applications of my research and future career possibilities. These experts created the best virtual GYI experience I could ask for and I am very grateful for their insights.”

In addition to Klink, Wisconsin’s student delegates to the 2020 GYI included Andrew Alsum from Hartford Union High School; Jack Burns from Kettle Moraine Global High School; Garrett McFarren from Hartford Union High School; and Kasey Yu from Hartford Union High School.

“Two of my favorite things that we did were the roundtable discussions and the Laureate Lounges,” says Yu, whose GYI presentation focused on infrastructure issues in Somalia. “I loved the roundtable discussions because having the experts there in a live call and actually discussing your presentation and your paper was so cool. My other favorite thing was the Laureate Lounge I attended because we met with a scientist who had studied and worked with NASA on how to grow food in space. Attending the Global Youth Institute was a once in a lifetime experience.”

Wisconsin’s five delegates were selected during the sixth annual Wisconsin Youth Institute (WYI) event hosted by the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences this past April. Thirty-three high school students participated in the WYI event, which was also held virtually this year. 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.

For this year’s virtual format, WYI participants submitted videos of their paper presentations and were assigned to roundtable groups. Throughout the week students watched each other’s videos and discussed their research topics. On Friday, they attended a talk by UW–Madison professor Alfonso Morales, and then received feedback on their presentations from CALS staff and graduate students serving as roundtable experts.

“Learning about other students’ food security issues was the best part of my Wisconsin Youth Institute experience,” says Burns, whose presentation focused on education in the Dominican Republic. “The passion [my fellow participants] had for their topics shined through in their video submissions. Their drive to learn about topics of global importance, as well as brainstorm ways to solve them, was inspiring. I was able to learn about issues in every pocket of the world. It was a truly rewarding experience.”

Educators who participated in the Global Youth Institute experience this year were Paul Coffin from Hartford Union High School; Erica Dimka from Kettle Moraine Global High School; Kevin Martin from Hartford Union High School; Bill Schliewe from Hartford Union High School; and Ben Skifton from Hartford Union High School.

“My favorite thing was seeing and hearing the students get involved in globally significant issues and be able to discuss those with experts, says Dimka, who teaches English. “Plus the seminars and other live events that students could participate in virtually.”

Plia Xiong, prospective student services coordinator for UW–Madison CALS, helped coordinate and oversee the WYI as well as Wisconsin’s participation in the GYI.

For more information, visit the Wisconsin Youth Institute website at https://go.wisc.edu/wisconsinyouthinstitute or contact Plia Xiong at plia.xiong@wisc.edu or (608) 265-2051.