By Brianna Mathias
DASSEL, MN Recently, a select few high school students in Minnesota were chosen to attend the Global Youth Institute, a part of the World Food Prize International Symposium.
One of the six high schoolers who will represent Minnesota in Des Moines, IA, Oct. 13-15 is Dassel resident, Alicia Johnson, daughter of Tom and Brenda Johnson.
“I feel beyond blessed,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know whether or not I was going to get in, so when I got the e-mail, I screamed.”
In order to be accepted to the Institute, students had to write essays on food security.
“I wrote about Argentina’s forced labor issue,” Johnson said. “They have a low unemployment rate, but they still have a lack of workers. Now, there is a gross number of human trafficked farm workers. I really hit on how the government is corrupt.”
Johnson mentioned how even though her paper was shorter than others, it was jam-packed with information, as well as solutions to the issue.
“My mentor, Brian Westby, was great, and my paper was strong,” Johnson said. “I also got to go to the Minnesota Youth Institute, where I networked with members of U of M staff, who seemed to like me. They even told me they liked my handshake.”
Westby, who proofread Johnson’s paper, said he was very proud of her accomplishment.
“It is really exciting to see her receive this recognition as I know she really worked hard on her paper,” Westby said. “She takes her work serious and always puts forth her best in whatever she does. I am excited for her and the opportunity she is going to have when she gets to travel to Des Moines for the institute.”
Applicants also had an interview over Skype. Johnson said she thought hers, which was with the dean’s assistant, went well.
“I think I got in mainly because of those three things,” Johnson said.
Food security may not be the most exciting subject for most teenage girls, but Johnson explained how she discovered the importance of it.
“It came mostly from being a part of FFA and learning all about agriculture,” Johnson said. “As I got deeper into the program, I started seeing that there really is a lack of food security. We’re not doing enough; we should be doing more.”
Though FFA was her driving force, Johnson said another reason she became interested in the Institute was because of friends who had also been involved in different parts of the World Food Prize.
“I’m excited to be able to extend my knowledge on food security,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be nice to meet a lot of cool people that have helped immensely with the world’s food security issues.”
Students involved in the Global Youth Institute become eligible to apply for the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship.
This prestigioius internship includes an all-expense-paid, eight-week program in which the student chosen has the opportunity to work with scientists and policymakers at some of the world’s leading research centers in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
“I will be applying for the internship,” Johnson said. “But most people I know who have done it have applied later on, during college. So, I think I’ll wait a few years.”
Johnson said she is not sure which college she wants to attend yet, but she wants to be a biology major.
“Food security is what our world lives off of,” Johnson said. “All it took me was one night, eating a midnight snack, to realize that, wow, this came from a farmer. It’s an element needed in our world.”