Kuemper Catholic students at the breakfast buffet during the Iowa Youth Institute convention at Iowa State University.  Pictured are (from left) Katelyn Hoffman, Clare Kiboko, and Maria Dentlinger.
Kuemper Catholic students at the breakfast buffet during the Iowa Youth Institute convention at Iowa State University. Pictured are (from left) Katelyn Hoffman, Clare Kiboko, and Maria Dentlinger.
June 13, 2013

Three Kuemper Catholic High School students earned the opportunity to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines this fall to discuss ways to combat world hunger.

The students - Shawna Eischeid, Brittany York and Maria Dentlinger - were among six Carroll students who were first selected to participate in the Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University in April. Their participation in the program began as a project for their high school English class - a simple research paper on problems in a developing country and ways to combat the issue.

Eischeid's project focused on the obstacles the residents of Turkey face and how they could overcome those obstacles. She suggested choosing alternate crops that would be better suited to the difficult farming terrain of the Middle Eastern country.

Her project also covered government involvement, their lack of communication and encouraged the implementation of local projects like food markets along with increased health care.

Dentlinger pursued malnutrition in Zimbabwe for her project, and York sought to reduce malnutrition via bio-fortification and Nourimanba - a peanut-butter based ready-to-use therapeutic food.

Mary Koester, an extended learning program teacher at Kuemper, submitted their papers to the Food Prize program.

"I think my favorite part is the fact that it raises the awareness of students who are growing up in the middle of America," Koester said. "What issues impact the whole world, and how those issues are connected to Iowa as an agricultural state."

Factors like food security, gender equality and infrastructure are just some of the topics that students have tackled for this project. They researched how the problem was affecting a certain nation and came up with ideas of how to solve them.

The convention at Iowa State included round-table discussions, where the Kuemper students talked with other students from around the state, and experts in the field who critiqued their projects.

"I was really impressed at the level of their presentations, their poise, the way they handled the questions, the depth that they were able to bring out in a very brief presentation," Koester said.

"The round table discussions that were held were impressive because the kids were extremely articulate," said Kolby Burch, FFA adviser and agriculture teacher at Carroll High School, who also attended the event. "They had to first of all introduce people to the issue and then talk about how they would solve it. It was all very impressive."

After that, the students attended sessions featuring hands-on activities from the academic and professional experts in attendance.

"I thought all of that was very interesting, you got to meet a lot of new people, and they all knew a lot about world hunger all around the world," Dentlinger said. "It definitely opened my eyes to how good we have it and all the other problems around the world, what people have to face."

Gov. Terry Branstad was the keynote speaker for the day, along with appearances by Iowa State President Steven Leath and many other professionals in the agriculture field.

"To me it was obvious ... they recognized that they were talking to the best and the brightest, some very talented and gifted young people," Burch said.

The Global Youth Institute will take place in October, in conjunction with the World Food Prize award ceremony.

"I know the kids have worked hard," Koester said. "I think they were very excited when I called them and told them that they had been selected. They were very excited about the prospect of being able to participate on the next level."

The Youth Institutes qualify the students for scholarships to Iowa State, as well as two internship opportunities: the Borlaug-Ruan Internship for participation in the Ames convention, and the USDA Carver-Wallace Internship for the Des Moines participants.

"It was kind of exciting, because all these adults were looking to teenagers for ideas. I've never been to something like that before," Eischeid said. "They all really listened and considered the ideas you gave during presentations." Eischeid's is already working on revisions to her paper on malnutrition in Turkey to submit for the internship.

This is only the second year the Iowa Youth Institute has taken place in addition to the Global Youth Institute. The other three students who went to Ames last April - Clare Kiboko, Michael Lux and Katelyn Hoffman - were listed as alternates for the three day convention in Des Moines.

None of the three who will be attending in Des Moines have specific plans on a future in agricultural studies, but agree they would like to find a way to fold the aspects they've researched into whatever career they choose.

"At first I was kind of just interested in it at the moment, but a lot of careers relate back to helping malnutrition and helping other countries," Eischeid said. "So I think you could find a career that, even if it wasn't directly related, in the end kind of fulfills that."