Three Upper Arlington High School students will go global this month when they meet world leaders and delegates from Iceland, Africa, Mexico, the Vatican, and other countries, at the 2013 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute.
Senior Katherine Denune, junior Alexandra Hoey and sophomore Maddie Page won the chance to attend the Global Youth Institute (GYI) conference thanks to original essays and presentations on world food problems at the Sept. 5 Ohio Youth Institute.
Teacher Lynn Reese said the Ohio Youth Institute was a state-level competition to select six student delegates to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute.
"Our students rocked it, claiming five of the 10 interviews and ultimately, three of the six delegate spots," she said.
The keynote speaker at the Sept. 5 event was Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation.
Reese said the competition included a lengthy written essay, a presentation of findings to a panel of students from around the state and interviews with Ohio State University faculty members for the top 10 candidates.
She said her biology students were assigned the World Food Prize paper last spring.
"For most of the students, it was the most daunting and most involved piece of research they had been asked to complete to date," she said. "They had to research the causes of food insecurity in a developing nation and present their findings in a 3,000- to 5,000-word essay that includes a proposed resolution to those underlying causes."
Reese said she invited the students with the 20 strongest submissions to register to compete at the state level.
"Students from across the state are split into groups of about 12 to give four-minute presentations of the findings summarized in their papers to each other and OSU faculty experts," she said.
She said the students are not only judged on their papers but on their comfort level in speaking and answering questions about their topic.
"They also gauge the interest shown for other presentations and willingness to engage new people in conversation about food security issues," she said. "Presentation scores are combined with scores on the paper to select candidates for interviews."
Reese said all of the Upper Arlington students stood out at the conference for their "well-rounded, mature confidence and ease around adults."
"Working with them every day, it may be easy to forget just how amazing our kids are, but seeing them hold their own against the very best from other schools was a stark reminder that Upper Arlington produces stellar students," she said.
"The three ladies who earned delegate spots had each set their sights on making it to Iowa early in the writing process and worked extra diligently on crafting superb final submissions."
The three-day World Food Prize Global Youth Institute begins Oct. 17 in Des Moines, Iowa.
"It's an honor being picked," Hoey said. "I'm most excited about meeting so many new people from all around the world and hearing people's ideas and aspirations to be able to sufficiently feed the people of the world."
Page said being chosen to go to Iowa was "really cool."
"I'm looking forward to sharing a room with someone from a different state or even country," she said. "I'm also excited to talk to people who are very involved in food and agriculture.
"I know by the end of this experience, I will know if I want to go into the field of food and agriculture."
Denune said a trip to Ecuador, where she saw many hungry children, inspired her to explore solutions to malnutrition in her research paper.
"I am excited to represent Ohio and to learn from world leaders some effective ways to end the suffering from hunger that is real for too many people," she said.
Other Upper Arlington students who competed in last month's conference include: Hannah Barker, Abigail Crum, Caroline Fulmer, Caroline Mead, Madison Piccinich, Davis Robeson, Becca Shera, Taylor Staub, Ryan Vallette, Luisa Varanse and Julia Wilson.
This is Reese's third consecutive year traveling with students to Iowa for the global institute.
"Last year, senior Justine Frerichs traveled with me and the year before was class of 2013 graduate Ashley Williams," she said. "The global perspective they gain through this assignment, even if they never compete, is eye-opening."
Reese said the UA High School students maintain a garden on Branden Road.
"The garden and the food prize essay are ways I strive to create a larger context for the material I teach," she said. "For many of my students, it has helped to uncover a burgeoning passion for food insecurity issues."
Reese said Hoey, Denune and Page will have a chance to apply for Borlaug-Ruan international internships at agricultural research stations all over the world.
Speakers at the Oct. 17 conference will include Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Holy See, from The Vatican; Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, president of Iceland; and Yemi Akinbamijo, executive director of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa.
Norman Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, established the World Food Prize.
Reese said Upper Arlington students have been competing at the youth institute events since 2005.