Five Wisconsin high school students recently returned from the Global Youth Institute held during the annual World Food Prize International Symposium. The students attended the event with peers, educators, researchers and policymakers from around the world. There they discussed challenges and solutions to world hunger and poverty.

“It was such an incredible experience; I was surrounded by amazing youth from all walks of life and I loved learning about many of their (presentation) topics,” said Nyan Lues, a student at LaFollette High School in Madison, Wisconsin. “I had no idea about the array of careers related to agriculture. It was so inspiring to know that any person there had the ability to create an impact on the world.”

During the institute Lues made a presentation on sustainable soybean farming in Argentina.

Also attending the institute were Anna Brink from Plymouth High School, Margaret Colwell and Cael Schoemann from Hartford Union High School, and Sydney Hensen from DeForest High School.

“I was very fortunate to make a lot of friends and form such strong bonds through the course of a few days,” Hensen said. “These individuals helped change my perspective on what I want to do in my life to further help this world with the food crisis.”

Hensen made a presentation on how to support poor rural households in Costa Rica.

The Wisconsin delegates were selected in April at an event hosted by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Students at that event each presented a research paper about a global food-security issue. They developed their papers with the supervision of a teacher or mentor. Then they presented their research to peers and university faculty, staff and graduate students. They also toured the UW-Madison campus and learned about student-research opportunities. Sixty-nine high school students participated in that event.

Educators who choose to attend the Global Youth Institute as chaperones can participate in professional-development programming. Three high school teachers accompanied the Wisconsin group – Kevin Martin and Bill Schliewe from Hartford Union High School, and Angie Midthuna-Hensen from Verona High School.

“I’ve been teaching for 17 years, and the four days in Iowa were some of the most meaningful and passion-invoking days in my career,” said Schliewe, an English teacher. “Between listening to the president of the Congo, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and World Food Prize Laureate Simon Groot, the days were filled with messages of hope. Everywhere you turned, students were being encouraged to be and do more than they ever imagined.”

Plia Xiong, prospective student-services coordinator at UW-Madison organized and led the trip to Iowa. She coordinates and oversees the Wisconsin Youth Institute event. Lauren Jorgensen, a fellow at the UW-Madison-International Division, also attended the Global Youth Institute as a chaperone.

The Global Youth Institute was held in conjunction with the annual World Food Prize International Symposium, which was held Oct. 16-19 in Des Moines. Visit or contact or 608-265-2051 for more information.

Nicole Miller is the news manager in the office of external relations in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.