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AEE Intern Learns Global Lessons in Ag

Posted: February 14, 2011

Philadelphia Area Teen Travels to India; Takes Ag Ed World-Wide

“So far in my life the happiest I have been was when I received an e-mail from The World Food Prize telling me that I received an internship. I remember running through my house, smiling so hard that I couldn’t talk. I knew that I was in for an experience that would without a doubt change my life.”

And what a life changing experience it was for 18-year-old Jenna Moser from Philadelphia. In her senior year at W.B. Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences, she was awarded The Norman E. Borlaug-Raun International Agricultural Science and Technology Internship through The World Food Prize. As part of their mission to fight global hunger, the organization provides high school students with eight-week long internships working with world-renowned scientists and policymakers at leading research centers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Moser was among an elite group of 16 interns and was assigned to India, where she worked at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai. She also travelled to Kannivadi and Tamil Nadu for various work-internship experiences.

"My main focus was on maize production so I could compare it to the United States,” she says of her internship work. “I interviewed 30 maize farmers and found that the majority of the farmers do not use machines and it is typical for the women to perform at least 75 percent of the work.”

In addition to studying maize production, Moser visited several women’s organizations that provided locals with another source of income for their family. One group made paper, another sold cards with eggs to farmers, and a third group created fertilizer for farmers.  She also visited a coconut and banana farm, a cocoon farm and a flower farm.

“Everything seemed to match my interest, even things that I didn’t chose,” she says about her work experiences. “I was amazed at how easily everything connected and had a purpose.”

While the work experiences were the main focus for Moser, there were also a number of events that changed her way of thinking about the world and agriculture.

“I expected to learn and find the culture interesting, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with India,” says Moser about her stay. “At times I found myself hating that I had so much; even simple things like shoes. People would ask me why I had so many chipotles (shoes) and I had only taken four pairs with me to India. I didn’t think I had a lot but I guess I did.”

Later she went to the village of Kannivadi where she saw only one girl with shoes and they were too big. “I didn’t know whether to be grateful that she had shoes or upset that they were not even the right size. While I was India I saw a lot of things like the shoes that I just wasn’t sure how to interpret.”

Now a freshman at Pennsylvania State University majoring in agricultural education, she can see how her high school career and technical education prepared her for the internship and her post-secondary work. Moser had some experience doing farm work at Saul High School and through her 4-H club. She was taught to grow and harvest crops through her school's community supported agriculture program, also learning how to take care of livestock.

“I value Saul for its ability to provide opportunities for students,” she says. “In addition, Saul prepared me because there were teachers and staff who believed in me, and still do. Knowing that so many people believed in me was perhaps the best preparation I could ask for.”

And she understands how programs like the internship can help students understand what type of careers there are in agriculture.

“Internship programs, like The World Food Prize, help students in exploring career options in agriculture because they will see that they have limitless opportunities and there will always be a need,” she says. “Agriculture is the world’s largest industry and students can specialize in something like business in college but then combine it with dealing directly with farmers. Our world will always need agriculture. For a student to be a part of an internship and see first-hand that the world needs them is incredibly challenging and rewarding.”

Moser currently plans on taking a more active role in stirring people’s passions about agriculture. She plans to run for a Pennsylvania FFA officer position in June.

“I almost did not apply for The World Food Prize internship last year because I knew that if I would be selected I would not be able to run for an officer position. What I didn’t realize was that being selected as a World Food Prize intern and spending two months in India would enable me to have a lot more information and experiences that I could use to motivate people.”

For More Information

The World Food Prize has a number of Youth Programs, including an institute and the international internship program. 

Jenna Moser published a blog about her internship, including photographs and summaries of her work experience. 

The United Stated Department of Agriculture has a number of programs dedicated to high school students interested in internships, educational employment, and scholarships.