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TAMS student rubs elbows with UN ambassadors
Ben Peyton / Senior Staff Writer
Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science sophomore Flora Yan was one of 150 students from around the world who joined Nobel Peace Prize winners, a Jordanian princess and United Nations ambassadors at the October 2012 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa.
Yan was the only UNT TAMS student to participate in the competition and was the top choice of four students from Texas who qualified for the conference.
To qualify for the conference, where high school students discuss pressing food security and agricultural issues with international experts, Yan had to complete a research essay addressing a pressing food security issue.
A mentor, who attends the conference with the student, helps students write the research paper, but Yan’s mentor Donna Fleming said the credit belonged to Yan.
“The other high school students had a teacher really work with them while writing this research paper. Flora did it all on her own,” Fleming said.
Yan’s paper, “Cultivating innovations to feed the world,” touched on food security issues in her parents’ home country, Myanmar.
Both Yan and Fleming found describing how poignant the experience was for them difficult, but noted that the conference and the interaction with students and experts from around the world was eye-opening.
Listening to keynote speakers share perspectives from around the world was really enlightening, Yan said.
World Food Prize founder Norman E. Borlaug, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, is known as “the man that saved a billion lives” and the father of the green revolution because of his innovative efforts to fight hunger.
Norman’s granddaughter Julia Borlaug addressed TAMS students about the opportunity to submit a research paper in hopes of attending the prestigious conference, Yan said.
“We were truly affected by how many wonderful people were there whose job – their career – was fighting hunger,” Fleming said.
People at the conference who came from foreign countries were surprised at how unaware Americans were of global hunger issues, Fleming said.
Yan plans to present her experience with global experts to fellow TAMS students, opening the door for future TAMS participation and spreading awareness about world hunger problems.
Yan now qualifies for, and plans to accept, the Borlaug-Ruan international internship, which is an eight-week program at agricultural research centers around the world, Fleming said.
Yan is not sure what specific profession she wants to pursue but said she will apply her experience at the conference wherever she goes.