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Trojans fight world hunger through Purdue program

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After taking part in the World Food Prize Purdue Youth Institute project, New Castle graduate Olivia Silvers (right) and current New Castle High School senior Natalie Johnson (left) realized they want to be part of the solution to solving world hunger. Silvers just finished her first year at Purdue University. Johnson is heading there in the fall.
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New Castle High School Environmental Science teacher Holly Drummond (center) with this year’s group of World Food Prize competitors in front of the Purdue University green houses. Pictured from left are Mary Price, Joee Hanson, Anna Chesher, JessieAtchley and Jada Neal.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Students at New Castle High School are trying to save starving communities around the world through science.

The NCHS Environmental Science class offers students a chance each year to participate in The World Food Prize competition through the Purdue Youth Institute.

This year’s crop of NCHS scientists in The World Food Prize were Anna Chesher, Joee Hanson, Jada Neal, Jessie Atchley and Mary Price. They attended the event April 25-26 on Purdue’s campus in West Lafayette.

The World Food Prize event challenges high school students to research real world situations where people are struggling with hunger and offer recommendations to global leaders in science, industry and policy.

Some of the topics they tackle are water scarcity, animal agriculture, climate volatility, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, spoilage and waste, infectious diseases, international trade and infrastructure.

The World Food Prize also allows teen scientists to meet researchers, professors and college students in Indiana working to end hunger and poverty and improve food security around the world.

New Castle graduate Olivia Silvers, Class of 2018, said the participating in the project changed her understanding of the world and her path in life.

Silvers participated in The World Food Prize in both her junior and senior high school years.

“After doing that program, I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to help the world hunger problem,” Silvers said. “It was really eye-opening. I didn’t realize all these problems going on.”

During her senior year at New Castle, Silvers decided to study the Republic of Congo and figure out how near-constant war in that region was contributing to the people’s food scarcity.

“They can’t get to most of the land they’re needing to farm,” she said.

Silvers delivered her World Food Prize presentation to Purdue staff members who focus on different agricultural areas. She also had the opportunity to tour the Purdue campus.

That’s when she decided to focus on an ag science education, rather than a future in music.

Silvers has just completed her freshman year at Purdue University. She is a horticultural major working with controlled environmental growing, such as hydroponics and aquaponics.

“These are systems you can take places where food doesn’t normally grow,” Silvers said.

In her first year at Purdue, Silvers has already worked with doctoral and graduate students on projects that could change the lives of people on the other side of the Earth.

“If we take a step back, and really look at what’s going on around the world, we can start helping solve that problem and really start bettering their lives all around,” Silvers said.

Natalie Johnson is another New Castle student who decided on her future path after participating in the World Food Prize project through the NCHS Environmental Science class.

Johnson is a New Castle senior this year. She’ll start animal science classes in the fall at Purdue University’s College of Agriculture.

Johnson’s World Food Prize project was focused on the proper way to manage and control clean water in the Philippines.

She hadn’t really thought about being a part of the agriculture field before participating in the project and visiting the Purdue campus.

“You really don’t know what it takes to make the world go on,” Johnson said. “We need agriculture and people to be a part of it.”

Johnson highly recommends the Environmental Science class and World Food Prize competition to fellow New Castle students.

“It shows you what is going on in the world that you don’t really think about every day,” she said.

Natalie and Olivia both decided upon their future paths as a result of participating in the World Food Prize project we did in Environmental Science and attending the Purdue Youth Institute.

By taking part in The World Food Prize Youth Institute at Purdue University, each student has also been recognized as a Borlaug Scholar and received a $1,000 scholarship.

The title and scholarship are named for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and World Food Prize Founder Dr. Norman Borlaug.

“Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world,” Borlaug said in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Dec. 11, 1970.

For more information, visit www.worldfoodprize.org.

NCHS teachers Holly Drummond and Vickie Bertram sponsor the local event.

Drummond received an email invitation recently to attend The World Food Prize Global Guides in Des Moines, Iowa this October.

“It is a fully funded professional development opportunity for me to bring back valuable information for my students and science colleagues,” Drummond said.

The only expense Drummond will have to cover will be for the flight to Iowa. Anyone who would like to make a donation to help with expenses can contact New Castle High School at 765-593-6670.