NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — The New Jersey Youth Institute (NJYI), hosted by the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS), is a transformative experience for high school students. Rutgers welcomed 177 students, 21 teachers/mentors, and 28 expert judges comprised of Rutgers staff, faculty and industry professionals to the Douglass Student Center on March 3.
“The New Jersey Youth Institute is where social responsibility meets science,” said Carl Leikhram, senior director of the Office of Public Outreach and Communication. “High school students from across the state are excited to finally be back in person for this event, and we are honored to provide this pathway for these future socially conscious scientists.”
During this day-long program, students learned about critical global issues, networked with local leaders, engaged in hands-on-activities, and explored exciting ways to make a difference in New Jersey and around the world, becoming effective change agents in their own communities, and tomorrow’s scientific humanitarian leaders. Students who participate in the New Jersey Youth Institute earn recognition as a Borlaug Scholar and qualify for internships and further opportunities.
Leikhram explained that in addition to providing student opportunity, SEBS was proud to have expanded partnerships for 2023, bringing industry professionals to serve as expert judges at the NJYI. “This year is more than just an event; it is a resource for New Jersey high school students to develop skills and confidence in leading international research.”
The World Food Prize statewide youth institute is an innovative model that seeks to engage and inspire high school students to pursue STEM career paths relating to agriculture and global food security. This program is open to any New Jersey and tri-state high school student (grades 9-12) interested in food security issues. To participate, students research a global issue related to agriculture and food insecurity and must submit a research paper, which is evaluated by the World Food Prize Board of Reviewers.
Leikhram delivered the opening remarks and then introduced keynote speaker Cara Cuite, assistant extension specialist and professor in the Department of Human Ecology. Cuite spoke on the topic of “Food Insecurity in College Students.”
Austin Castillo-Leovan, coordinator of Global Youth Programs at the World Food Prize Foundation, addressed the students and guided them through an interactive program exploring the topic of food security. Future scholars met in small groups to evaluate the social and health implications related to inaccessibility of nutritious food in our nation.
Students then presented their research papers to a panel of expert judges. Research presentations focused on how to solve key global challenges such as water scarcity, renewable energy, animal health, climate volatility, plants, water and sanitation, and sustainable agriculture. Students presented their solutions, responded to questions from judges and fellow students and participated in group discussions with statewide experts, global leaders in science, industry and policy, as well as professors at SEBS working to end food insecurity.
Looking around seeing so many young people like me wanting to change the worst to the better fills me up with joy. We all fight to be better but in honesty we are all striving for one goal, a healthy lifestyle. — Aidan Twomey
Being a student at the World Food Prize has never been a better way to utilize my passion for sustainable agriculture. Not only did I learn about sustainability and undernourishment within Yemen, but I also gained meaningful connections while developing my presenting skills. I highly recommend participating in the World Food Prize at Rutgers. — Keaton Chaudhari
Attending the World Food Prize was an amazing experience to connect with individuals from many different backgrounds united in one common goal: To make the world a better place for everyone. The judges were so supportive and genuinely interested in my topic and presentation, making me feel instantly welcome. I was also able to connect with many other students at the different events planned. Hearing about their speeches was really cool! Overall, I’m so glad I had this opportunity to share my research and will take this experience with me for the rest of my life! — Ava Dohan
Participants from this event will be invited to represent New Jersey at the Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa. Considered the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture,” the World Food Prize emphasizes the challenges of ensuring that all people have access to a nutritious and sustainable food supply, while highlighting the accomplishments of those individuals who are working to improve global food security.
At this global event in Iowa, students from across the U.S. and abroad gather to study and write about a pressing global food issue and present their papers to distinguished global leaders and fellow students. While at this international symposium, students also have opportunities to attend trainings/educational programs, go on field trips, and participate in a team service project. All expenses paid for participants and provided by the World Food Prize, Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and donors.
The New Jersey Youth Institute is hosted by Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Visit the NJ Youth Institute Chapter of the World Food Prize webpage for instructions, sample papers, evaluation rubric and registration, and for more information.