U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, signed an agreement February 19 in Des Moines to expand the Wallace-Carver Internship Program for students interested in cutting-edge agriculture, science and research. The ceremony took place at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in downtown Des Moines with a crowd of 200 youth and business leaders attending.
The partnership, as represented in the formal Memorandum of Understanding between USDA and the World Food Prize Foundation that was signed, will expand opportunities for high school and college students and prepare the next generation of agricultural and science leaders. John Ruan III, chairman of the World Food Prize Foundation, also participated in the ceremony. The agreement is for five years, after which the cooperative program will be reviewed before the next step is taken.
"We are making permanent and signing this memorandum which lasts for five years regarding our agreement with the Wallace-Carver internship program," said Quinn. "What this does is offer our World Food Prize youth program for use by USDA to recruit students to participate in the Wallace-Carver Internship program. We make available these wonderful high school students who are in our program, the summer before they enter college, providing them the opportunity to apply for and be selected to be USDA interns."
Agreement formalizes partnership between the two entities to scale up the USDA Wallace-Carver Internship Program
"This is a wonderful opportunity for young people to be inspired to commit their lives to agriculture and the fight against global hunger," said Vilsack. "USDA thanks the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute and its Borlaug-Ruan International Internship program and the other youth programs of the World Food Prize for their efforts to create opportunities for young people pursuing careers in agriculture and related fields. These students truly are the best and brightest, and they will discover, much like I did, that USDA is a dynamic agency that positively impacts people's lives every day."
Quinn pointed out that "Dr. Norman Borlaug, founder of the World Food Prize, started his career as a USDA employee and would have been very proud to see this special connection being established between our two organizations to inspire young students. The World Food Prize is growing its education programs, reaching across the country to cultivate the most promising students in science and agriculture, and we are excited to now offer those students remarkable opportunities to explore careers in the USDA."
Like a summer job, a salary comes with the Wallace-Carver internship. The Wallace-Carver student interns are paid a modest amount for the work they do. But the big payback is the valuable experience and knowledge the interns gain.
Youth programs sponsored by World Food Prize are expanding across the nation
Every year, over 1,000 students across the country participate in World Food Prize youth programs. They work with teachers to research a global food security issue, write a paper on that topic and present their solutions. The papers are evaluated and judged and the top 150 students are selected.
Those students and their teachers travel to Des Moines to participate in an exchange of ideas with the world's foremost leaders at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines each fall. From there, they can apply for World Food Prize Borlaug-Ruan International Internships at research centers around the globe. This year there will be 22 Borlaug-Ruan interns spending the summer working and learning at these centers.
Students who participate in World Food Prize youth programs can also apply for Wallace-Carver internships. The Wallace-Carver internship was introduced as a pilot program the past two years with a total of 31 students chosen -- 15 in 2011 and 16 in 2012. Now, by expanding the Wallace-Carver program, USDA and the World Food Prize Foundation will annually choose top students from across the country to participate as Wallace-Carver interns. The Wallace-Carver internship involves a one-week orientation at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. before the students fan out to assume internships with USDA agencies and offices across the nation.
Internships offer opportunities for high school and college students
Vilsack noted, "These internships are a wonderful opportunity for young people to be inspired to commit their lives to agriculture and the fight against global hunger. The programs expand opportunities for high school and college students, helping prepare the next generation of agricultural and scientific leaders."
Students compete for the Wallace-Carver internships through the USDA Pathways Programs which recruit, hire and retain current students and recent graduates. Besides strengthening the menu of USDA internship programs, the Wallace-Carver Internship program will help attract and retain the best and brightest young people for careers in American agriculture, said Vilsack.
"We want to extend the Wallace-Carver Internship program over the next five years to eventually get to the point where maybe as many as 100 interns will have this opportunity at USDA," added Vilsack. "And we want to extend this program to offer it to students in every state, not just Iowa. This agreement we've signed here today is also going to help extend the reach of the World Food Prize Foundation's youth programs."
Trisha Collins of Pleasantville, currently a junior at Iowa State University majoring in animal science, has participated in all of the World Food Prize youth programs and the USDA Wallace-Carver Internship. The experiences have helped shape her future path. "Working with livestock in Ethiopia and doing research as a USDA Wallace-Carver Intern have completely changed my life," she says. "These unique opportunities inspired me to focus my career and my energy on solving global challenges through science and agriculture."
Iowa Youth Institute will be held at Iowa State on April 29
Another new World Food Prize youth program is the Iowa Youth Institute. It focuses on STEM subjects. That is, getting students who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math to participate in the program with the goal of helping them prepare for college and careers in agriculture and ag-science related areas.
Last year was the first year for the Iowa Youth Institute, a one-day event for Iowa high school students sponsored by the World Food Prize in cooperation with Iowa State University. It was held on the ISU campus at Ames last April, as it will be again this year. This year's Iowa Youth Institute, an all-day event, will again explore agricultural and related science career opportunities. This year's program will take place April 29 at ISU. It will feature another interesting line-up of speakers, discussion groups, classroom visits and tours of the ISU campus.
Each student who attends the Iowa Youth Institute program is accompanied by a teacher from their high school. Last year a total of 240 high school students and teachers participated.
Goal is to get one student from every high school in Iowa to participate in Iowa Youth Institute program
"Our goal is to get one student representing every high school in Iowa to participate each year in the Iowa Youth Institute, held on the campus of Iowa State," says World Food Prize president Ken Quinn. "If we can reach that goal, I'm sure ISU president Steven Leath would be pleased. It would be like ISU football coach Paul Rhoads having all the top high school football players in the state show up on campus all at once for a recruiting visit."
Quinn adds, "What we do with our Iowa Youth Institute program is bring in all these amazing high school students interested in STEM. We bring them to the ISU campus at Ames for our annual Iowa Youth Institute. They learn about the ag and ag-related science careers and educational opportunities available."
Iowa State makes a special contribution in that each high school student who participates in the Iowa Youth Institute is eligible for a free $500 scholarship to Iowa State University if the high school student ends up choosing ISU for his or her college education.
That's not bad -- $500 for writing a five-page research paper and come to Ames for an all-day event to learn about ISU and STEM opportunities that could help put you on the right path toward a college education and career -- should you choose that path.
For more information on the Wallace-Carver Internship or any of the World Food Prize student internship programs, visit www.worldfoodprize.org.