It’s never too early to start changing the world for the better.
I think of the Florida Youth Institute (FYI) as the UF/IFAS Change the World Boot Camp. It’s a Gator-flavored gathering of high schoolers who spend a week on campus to go through 14-hour days of IFAS tours, discussions, reflections, and prompts to think big.
We don’t tell them what to think. But it’s our job as educators to help them identify what to think about.
Trenton High School senior Lauren Roberts sought to change her community through agriculture before she attended FYI at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She has tended to three hives in her backyard, taught neighborhood kids about bees, and even surveyed local farmers about their interest in protecting bee health.
A week in Gainesville as a pre-CALS student challenged Lauren to think about how she could take her passion for bees global.
Lauren emerged from FYI transformed from a backyard beekeeper into an aspiring public policy analyst. Now she sees the opportunity to make the greatest impact by influencing policy that alleviates food insecurity for millions of people.
That’s typical of the FYI students I visited. We talked about big ideas and even posed for a group chomp photo. I found the students smart, creative, and interested in becoming Gators.
One thing about Lauren didn’t change. She has always wanted to attend UF. Dean Elaine Turner made that dream more likely by awarding her a scholarship before Lauren even applies.
Dean Turner will also give Lauren the opportunity to engage more deeply in worldwide challenges by sending her to the World Food Prize in October as a Florida representative of the Global Youth Institute.
To prepare, Lauren is revising her powerful presentation on a novel approach to crop protection. It’s modeled on the practice of Kenyans who suspend bee hives from wire ropes along the perimeter of village gardens. When elephants threaten to trample the plot, they shake the hives and agitate aggressive Africanized bees. The stings send the elephants into retreat – permanently.
FYI and CALS equip dreamers like Lauren to get to work creating the world they imagine.
For we who are dealing with the world as it is, it is encouraging to know help is on the way.