World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute makes a positive impact on participants

An alum shares how this event has led to personal growth, career exploration, and ideas for their future.

Blocks stacked up
Building blocks representing skills gained by participating in World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute. Photo by Debra Barrett, MSU Extension.

What are your goals for your future? Will your job and career plans include global experiences and interactions? World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute is an annual opportunity for young people offered through Michigan State University Extension that helps enhance and develop workforce readiness skills.

On May 6, 2021, MSU Extension hosted the virtual event for 37 participants from across Michigan. This event continues to grow not only in participation but also in partnerships and the chance to connect with program alumni. Neha Middela is one of those alumni who we got to work with this past winter and spring as she served as a George Washington Carver Intern and gave an inspiring keynote address for the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute.

There are many benefits for youth and young people that participate in this event. From communication and presentation skills to networking, World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute makes a positive impact. Middela reflected on her experiences and shared the following with us.

“Participating in the Michigan Youth Institute during my sophomore year in high school was the first time I had been tasked with thinking about solutions to a global food security problem, writing a paper of that length and substance, and presenting the paper to experts including Michigan State University professors. It was extremely empowering to problem solve in this way and to think creatively and in a global manner about these global challenges. This was probably also the first time that I had received constructive feedback on work by college professors who were experts in their fields.

These experiences prompted me to think more deeply and specifically about careers that were of interest within global food security, and to working on topics that had international implications. 

Attending the Michigan Youth Institute and the Global Youth Institute as both a participant, group leader, and roundtable expert allowed me to attend panels with experts who were crafting interdisciplinary solutions to food security. My participation in these panels and being able to talk to both experts and other students who were already doing work within local, national, and global food security initiatives, allowed me to understand the different backgrounds and types of work (such as scientific research, public policy, education, extension and field work) that were necessary to develop programming related to food security and how people with these different backgrounds worked together.

These experiences in high school and college allowed me to further develop interests in food security, environmental policy, the work of multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and World Bank, and develop new interests related to agricultural systems.

Volunteering as a group leader and a roundtable expert further allowed me to grow in terms of public speaking and team leadership. It was really rewarding to contribute in any capacity to a program that really shifted my academic interests. Working with high school students with similar interests on their papers and presentations allowed me to learn more about the interests and passions of other people who are interested in global food security. 

As a George Washington Carver Intern at the World Food Prize, I worked as an Awards and Lecture Management Intern this winter and early spring. It was a virtual internship. In this role, I analyzed data regarding previous World Food Prize nominations, assisted with the World Food Prize and Norman Borlaug Field Award nominations processes and promotions, worked on the Laureate story and promotional materials for the 2021 World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted.

Through this experience, I learned the workings of the World Food Prize Foundation and of large-scale, longer term processes such as the World Food Prize nominations process. I developed a better understanding of key organizational factors and important issues within global agricultural and environmental policy.

Additionally, it was really interesting to assist with the 2021 Laureate story and to learn about the work of Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted in crafting solutions to child and maternal health and nutrition through using strategies from different disciplines.”

Middela has an incredible success story. We hope to continue to not only work with Middela as a volunteer, but with other alumni as well as they give back to the event that helped enhance their skills.

Is this type of experience for you or someone you know? For more information about the Michigan Youth Institute, visit the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute website.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development helps to prepare young people for successful futures.  For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or youth entrepreneurship, email us at

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