Trumansburg, New York native Alyssa Pritts, who participated in the 2010 New York Youth Institute, is now taking part in an effort to secure a place for nutrition-sensitive agriculture in the global food security conversation. As a team member at the Myanmar Institute for Integrated Development, based in Hakha, Myanmar (Burma), Alyssa is discovering new and exciting ways to apply her global development skill set – a skill set with roots in World Food Prize youth programs.
In Alyssa’s case, as is true for many participants, the New York Youth Institute offered a novel opportunity to engage with like-minded peers and experts, and to gain exposure to topics that might not be fully accessible in a classroom setting: “A critical dialogue on topics relating to food security did not exist in my high school,” she told us, “so participating in the institute gave me a space to express my knowledge and passion for working toward a more food secure world.”
She also had the opportunity to attend the 2010 Global Youth Institute (GYI) during the annual Borlaug Dialogue, which took place at the World Food Prize headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. At the GYI, Alyssa took in some inspiring insights that continue to shape her career trajectory. She said, “we had the opportunity to listen to challenges faced by a such a diverse set of actors – farmers, policy makers, researchers, development workers, world leaders, and educators. It became even clearer to me that progress is only possible through collaboration and listening, as each person brings valuable perspectives gained through their hard work and lived experience.”
After graduating from high school in 2010, Alyssa went on to pursue a degree in Development Sociology (with a minor in International Development) at Cornell University – the home of the New York Youth Institute. At Cornell, she continued to expand on the skills gained in the World Food Prize youth programs in a big way: “my experience at the NYYI and then Global Youth Institute directly influenced my career path!”
Currently, Alyssa is working in Myanmar to support rural households by promoting nutrition-sensitive agricultural extension in a project spanning 24 villages in Chin State. The project, she says, “is building the capacity of local agricultural extension institutions so nutrition information is effectively disseminated to communities.” While the better part of a decade has past since Alyssa’s first exposure to the World Food Prize, she continues to deploy those early insights in her new position.
“My job requires that I interface with a wide range of stakeholders- farmers, donors, government, etc. Therefore, the sense of collaboration being key to progress that I felt at the World Food Prize is reflected in my daily work.”
As the 2017 New York Youth Institute, which will take place March 31st and April 1st on the Cornell University campus, draws nearer, we are excited to welcome the incoming cohort of Institute participants. In anticipation of the event, Alyssa offers some advice for high school students interested in contributing to food security efforts in New York and around the world:
“Find and create communities that share your passions – whether that be volunteering at a food pantry, starting a club, reading literature about food security and development and/or hosting an Oxfam Hunger Banquet at your high school. Engage yourself and the people around you in critical dialogues about development and food security. Don’t be afraid to take time to think and talk to people and unpack complexity, because then you realize how little you know and how much you still have to learn, which only helps you develop a deeper sense of the challenges, and identify opportunities.”