Be the change: Youth leaders tackling global food security

Reflections from two of Michigan’s World Food Prize Global Youth Institute delegates.

The 2015 Michigan Global Youth Institute delegates (left to right): Emily Kurburski, Autumn Zwiernik, Raegan Gembarski, Francine Barchett, and Kayla Zhu.
The 2015 Michigan Global Youth Institute delegates (left to right): Emily Kurburski, Autumn Zwiernik, Raegan Gembarski, Francine Barchett, and Kayla Zhu.

In mid-October 2015, a group of five youth delegates represented the state of Michigan at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa. It is at Global Youth Institute that high school students all over the country come together to interact with global policy makers and researchers, as well as their peers, to share ideas about tackling the challenge of feeding a hungry and growing planet. These five youth Michiganders earned their places as delegates by attending and presenting research and creative solutions to topics related to global food security at the 2015 World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute.

The design of the Michigan Youth Institute is to provide Michigan high school students with a similar experience as they might have as Global Youth Institute delegates, but at a smaller and state focused level. Michigan 4-H, Michigan State University Extension, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Michigan FFA come together in financial support of this event, and all parties were extremely impressed with the caliber of youth we have in our state. After hearing student presentations and reading student research papers, Michigan Youth Institute coordinators selected the five participants to attend Global Youth Institute and represent Michigan to a global audience of peers and experts.

At the Global Youth Institute, delegates present their research findings and solution proposals to small groups of their peers and some very important world leaders. They participate in the Borlaug Dialogues where they listen to panels of science, business, development and policy experts share their varying perspectives on issues and creative approaches around the world. Youth delegates also have some really great hands-on learning activities, including an Oxfam Hunger Banquet, an introduction to micro-financing and a service learning project packing meal boxes.

The following is what two of the Michigan Global Youth Institute Delegates had to say when asked to reflect on their experiences in Iowa.

Francine Barchett presenting research “I cannot express how wonderful an opportunity the World Food Prize was. It was only by chance that I even found out about it, but I am so glad I did. I’ve learned that although the world is progressing in so many ways, it still fails to support the lives of millions. While I live in a comfortable house, buy nice clothes and never worry about my meals, there are many who struggle to find shelter, protection, food, and employment. The people at the World Food Prize – the delegates, mentors and experts – had all done something and wanted to do more. They didn’t sit back, relax and watch problems occur before their eyes. I admire all of them, because I seek to be like them and create some lasting change in the world. Hopefully, the World Food Prize experience will not end right here and right now. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Change, in food security and beyond, begins with me.” - Francine Barchett.

 Emily Kurbuski presenting research“The culmination of a three-day event that stressed the importance of ending food insecurity and educating others on sustainable agricultural practices has been one of the most life changing events I have partaken in. Going into the Global Youth Institute, I had an ignorant mindset, believing that whatever tough situations you might be dealing with half-way across the globe, wasn’t something that I needed to worry or do anything about. Coming out of this event, I realized that my life could be flipped upside down. We don’t decide the type of life or overall standard of living that we are going to see for ourselves, but ultimate luck is how we are placed. Not only have I learned from other students, but I also had the amazing opportunity to actually start making a difference in these countries. The World Food Prize and Global Youth Institute left me with knowledge I wouldn’t have been able to find elsewhere. I now know that I can make a difference by doing something locally that could have an impact globally.” - Emily Kurbuski.

Let the thoughts from these two amazing young women inspire you. For more information on the 2015 Michigan Youth Institute and the Global Youth Institute delegates, check out “2015 World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute: Youth excellence in global civic engagement” and “What’s next for the Michigan Youth Institute winners?”. For details on the 2016 Michigan Youth Institute, which will be held on MSU’s campus May 12, 2016, visit the Michigan Youth Institute webpage.

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