Unmesh Datar from India has made this exchange year look easy. Placed in Marshalltown, Iowa by Iowa Resource for International Service, Unmesh wasted no time getting involved in community service and has already amassed over 60 hours of volunteer work. He makes it a priority to help out in the school library every morning before classes start and spends his weekends serving meals at a homeless shelter or working the concession stand at high school games.
That busy schedule doesn’t stop him from excelling in his academics. Unmesh was recently selected to attend the prestigious World Food Prize Global Youth Institute this October. This conference welcomes Nobel Prize laureates, international ambassadors and experts in every field from agriculture and engineering to the social sciences to gather and address the issues of food security and water scarcity around the world. To be selected, students must submit a research paper detailing the factors leading to these problems and to suggest potential solutions. Able to speak from experience, Unmesh chose to write about the hardships of food insecurity running rampant in India and identified ways to empower local farmers.
While his service work and academics keep him busy, he still finds time to indulge in his passion for drama. Unmesh is in the school play this fall, “Almost Maine” and will be joining the speech, debate, and swimming teams this winter. His host mom, Janelle Hawk, says he’s a joy to have around, he’s been an outgoing and personable person from day one, and that they’ve formed a very close relationship. His Local Coordinator, Gina Zoss, echoes those sentiments, “Unmesh is the definition of a high achiever. He goes above and beyond our expectations, takes any opportunity that comes his way, and does it all with a positive attitude.”