By Kenneth Quinn
Sunday will mark the 98th anniversary of the birth of Iowa’s greatest hero, Norman E. Borlaug, the farm boy from Howard County who received the Nobel Peace Prize for starting the Green Revolution and known as “the man who saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.” There are several birthday “gifts” that are already wonderful tributes to Borlaug, who died in 2009, including:
l Gov. Terry Branstad and the bipartisan legislative leadership to place a statue of Borlaug in the U.S. Capitol.
l The new $30 million Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates in Des Moines, which will be a museum open free to the public later this year to tell the story of Borlaug and Iowa’s other agricultural and humanitarian heroes.
I also believe that if we could ask Borlaug, he might actually prefer a different “gift” — the creation of a program to reach into every high school to inspire students to study science and alleviating hunger in the world.
Now there is an opportunity for that to happen. With a generous contribution from Paul and Claudia Schickler, and with the critical partnership of President Steven Leath and Iowa State University, the World Food Prize is creating the Iowa Youth Institute.
The concept is simple. Students research a country and a pressing food-related issue there, then develop proposed solutions. Each high school selects one student to be recognized as its Borlaug scholar. With a teacher, the student attends a daylong program at Iowa State University on April 30 to interact with leading educators, business executives, government officials and research scientists. Then, 80 students are chosen to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in October.
Each student who participates on April 30 receives a $500 scholarship to Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, an opportunity to become a Borlaug-Ruan International Intern, and further opportunity to become a paid USDA Wallace-Carver Intern
Participating teachers can earn a full continuing education credit.
The ultimate goal is to have every high school in Iowa participating in the Youth Institute by the centennial of Borlaug’s birth in 2014. One of his greatest dreams was a nationwide program that encouraged students to focus on science, especially as it relates to agriculture, food production and preserving our environment. I know he will be smiling down upon us if his state could be the first in the nation to achieve that 100 percent mark and again be an educational leader in America.
Ambassador Kenneth Quinn is president of the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines. For more information about the Iowa Youth Institute, contact Catherine Swoboda at firstname.lastname@example.org.