Earlier this school year, three Minnetonka High School students were selected as Minnesota delegates to the Global Youth Institute (GYI). GYI is a worldwide event held each fall in Des Moines, Iowa with the goal of educating and inspiring the next generation of agricultural innovators. MHS seniors Aafia Farhan, Lillian Kowal and Molly O’Neill qualified for the event through the VANTAGE Global Sustainability strand, with O’Neill attending in person from October 24-26.
VANTAGE Global Sustainability teacher Brent Veninga explained how the strand opens up this singular opportunity for students.
“Students participate in the World Food Prize at the Minnesota Youth Institute,” shared Veninga. “They investigate a nation and environmental or economic problem that they identify through research, write a paper on it, and present to a cohort of students and professors at the University of Minnesota.” From there, students are selected to advance to GYI, joining 150 others from 10 nations.
He continued, “While we have had one yearly Minnetonka student represent us in the past, having three students as delegates recommended in one year was a triumph of student learning, ambition and curiosity as to how we might make the world a better place for future generations.”
While attending GYI last month, O’Neill participated in numerous activities to hone her leadership skills and knowledge of the agricultural industry. She engaged in discussions, group projects and opportunities for networking, and she spent time learning from current industry leaders.
“My main highlights include hearing from the President of Ethiopia and attending a panel with the CEO of John Deer and Dr. Rhonda Hamm, a scientist for Corteva Agriscience,” she shared.
Reflecting on the experience, O’Neill considers it transformative. “It felt inspiring to be surrounded by such motivated leaders and peers who had similar passions. I met so many new friends from all over the world. The days were packed from sunrise to sunset, and I really feel like I got a lot out of the experience,” she said. “I am currently planning to go into environmental studies, but this week opened a new interest in agriculture and possible new majors surrounding food systems.”
Veninga said, “For our community, [GYI] has significant impact. Students can cast vision into possibilities for the future for themselves, their communities and the world.”