From October 24-27, seven New Jersey high school students, along with their teachers and chaperones, participated in the Global Youth Institute, a prestigious youth education program hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation. They were among 150 exceptional high school students from around the world selected to travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to attend this transformative event. GYI delegates had the opportunity to interact with 2023 World Food Prize Laureate Heidi Kühn, humanitarian and peace activist, who has spent more than 25 years restoring agriculture in former conflict zones. GYI delegates also discussed pressing food security and agricultural issues with international experts and heads of government, including the presidents of Ethiopia and Nigeria.
The New Jersey contingent actually began their journey to Iowa as stand-out participants at the New Jersey Youth Institute (NJYI), which was hosted in March 2023 by the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS). NJYI is an innovative model that engages high school students to pursue STEM career paths relating to agriculture and global food security. In addition, NJYI participants earn recognition as a Borlaug Scholar and qualify for internships and further opportunities.
Rutgers hosts NJYI as a resource for tri-state high school students to develop skills in leading international research. The experience is designed to motivate them to continue their journey in research-driven solutions by enrolling at SEBS. Hosted annually by SEBS, NJYI attracted approximately 100 New Jersey and tri-state high school students to the Cook Campus to present their papers on how to address world hunger in March. Among the NJYI students selected to travel to Iowa to represent the Garden State at GYI this October were Jadyn Beckett, Morgan Cahill, Keaton Chaudhari, Mia McColl, Jasmine Narine, Brianna Pacailler and Julia Yi.
Serafina Smith-Matos, assistant dean in the Office of Academic Programs at SEBS, traveled with the NJ contingent.
“I am immensely proud of the dedication and enthusiasm our students bring to addressing pressing global food security challenges. The experience at the Global Youth Institute ignited their passion for research and innovation, exemplifying the impact of NJYI. It highlights the potential of these young minds to contribute to a more sustainable and food-secure world through collective efforts and a shared mission. I look forward to continuing to support the students throughout their academic journey and witnessing their contributions to our global community.”
Keaton Chaudhari from Jefferson Township High School and Julia Yi from East Brunswick High School were among the five NJ students in Iowa. Both Keaton and Julia were excited to share how the Global Youth Institute contributed to their understanding of current food insecurity challenges and the kinds of research they would be excited to do if admitted to SEBS.
Keaton Chaudhari (NJ high school senior who has applied to SEBS)
“Prior to visiting the Global Youth Institute, I had no idea just how much pressure is on our world’s agricultural system. Due to the booming population, farmers are forced to grow food faster than ever before. At the Global Youth Institute, I learned what is being done to meet this growing need of food.”
“If I am admitted to SEBS, I would love to research sustainable alternatives to meat. Meat is one of the least sustainable food choices. Alternatives to meat have been around for decades but none have the nutritional and environmental benefits necessary to fully replace meat.”
Julia Yi (NJ high school senior who has applied to SEBS)
“The Global Youth Institute has given me new insight into solving current challenges. Specifically, during the round table discussions I was able to learn about new solutions like vertical farming. The International Borlaug Dialogue has also been so motivating. In one session, the leaders of Africa were talking about how they got aid to fight food insecurity and they were very enthusiastic. This definitely motivated me to also want to take action on current issues.”
“Through the different panels and roundtables I have gained more knowledge regarding agriculture and food systems. If I was admitted to SEBS, I would want to do research regarding how farms can help deal with food insecurity and creating sustainable products that can help fight food insecurity.”
Created by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug and Iowa businessman John Ruan in 1994, the Global Youth Institute was developed to challenge and inspire participating student-teacher teams to identify ways of alleviating hunger, and to expose the students to opportunities and careers in food, agriculture and natural resource disciplines.