On Monday, April 14th, ten IRIS YES students participated in the World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute to engage in discussions on international food issues and interact with leading scientists, policy makers and humanitarians. Tripling in size within three years, over 230 scholars and 120 educators from across the state attended the event held on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. With their diverse cultural backgrounds, the IRIS YES students brought a unique element of international perspective and understanding to the event.


Each scholar was required to write a research paper focusing on a specific country and factor affecting food security. They shared their research and solutions to a small group of fellow scholars and two or three expert facilitators in roundtable discussions, receiving feedback and answering questions. This component of the Institute encourages students to dig deeper into complicated issues and envision creative solutions. Participants also attended immersion sessions on the Iowa State campus to learn about cutting-edge research and career paths connected to science, technology, policy and other fields relevant to agriculture and development. One of the highlights from the event was the keynote speech by the 2010 World Food Prize Laureate and former CEO of Heifer International, Jo Luck.


Between the morning and afternoon sessions, students were able to speak one-on-one with experts and policy makers during a luncheon. Nathan Swartz, one of our YES students from South Africa had the opportunity to sit with Governor Branstad and Iowa State University President Leath, discussing his life in the US and the KL-YES program. Nathan commented after the event, “I was so glad I got to network with people in those positions because who knows, the door to new opportunities might be standing right in front of me.” Nathan currently lives with a host family in Delmar, Iowa, and would like to attend Iowa State University to study agronomy.


Like Nathan, other IRIS students have expressed interest in pursuing new career paths due to their positive experiences in Iowa. Aleyna Bakirli, one of our students from Turkey, remarked that she would not have considered a career connected to food security and agriculture if it had not been for her experience living in Marshalltown, Iowa, and participating in the Iowa Youth Institute and the Global Youth Institute.


Since the 20th Century, Iowa has played a significant role in international relations and development, and this state will continue to be a leader in the fight against hunger now and into the future. By hosting and supporting one of these YES students, you can empower international youth to continue the legacy of Iowa-native Dr. Norman Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the World Food Prize Foundation, in the pursuit of alleviating hunger and poverty in the United States and their home countries.


Do you enjoy learning about different cultures and religions? Would you like to share your American lifestyle and traditions with a high school student from Africa, Asia, or the Middle East? Iowa Resource for International Service (IRIS) is asking you to consider hosting one of our Youth Exchange and Study (YES) students for the 2014-2015 school year.


The YES program is funded by the Department of State as a peace building initiative and selects its students for their commitment to serve as young ambassadors. These students represent diverse religious and cultural backgrounds from over 40 countries. They return to their home countries with a spirit for youth volunteerism and better prepared to improve their communities. 


There is no such thing as a perfect host family. You do not need to be married or have children in high school to be a great host. We simply ask that you are willing to open your home and heart to one of these exceptional students. For more information, please visit https://iris-center.org/YES_Program.html and contact us through           e-mail yessupport@iris-center.org or call our office at 515-292-7103.                           Never underestimate the difference you can make in our global community!

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