Student works to ease world hunger

Buckhannon-Upshur High School students who competed in agricultural science studies and competitions this year achieved a number of awards for their efforts and research.

One student, Mikinna Poling, may have the opportunity to present her paper outlining her views on how to save the world in front of Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson and former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Tony Blair. Turkson is also the president of the Pontificial Council for Justice and Peace at the Holy See in the Vatican.

Her presentation will take place at the World Food Prize Global Youth Symposium in Iowa. Her trip to the symposium would first have to be approved by the Upshur County Board of Education. Connie Scarbrough, an agricultural teacher at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, said the trip would not require funding from the school board.

The World Food Prize is awarded to those who work toward feeding a starving world, Scarbrough said. At this year’s symposium, Poling and Scarbrough expect to be the first student and teacher team to represent West Virginia at the Global Youth Institute.

“I’m very excited about it,” Scarbrough said, adding that 50,000 people would be part of the symposium audience. “When you have students that have that kind of background and also the heart and the mind to do those kind of things, you really want to promote that. What’s really awesome is if she gets past that bunch of brilliant people, then she can possibly be chosen to go abroad and study for two months in a foreign country that has food issues and poverty issues.”

Scarbrough told the school board Tuesday she learned about the competition only 12 hours prior to its deadline. Mikinna Poling wrote her research paper about problems facing the country of Niger. She also wrote about how microfinance strategies could help alleviate some of the problems.

Lisa Fleming, the director of Global Education Programs for the World Food Prize Foundation, wrote back in response to Poling’s paper.

“Your thoughtful analysis of the important global issues places your paper in line with the legacy of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who spent his life working alongside poor farmers around the world to boost yields and fight hunger,” Fleming wrote.

The late Borlaug, a man who is believed to have saved the lives of more than 2 billion people by breeding genetically superior plants, was a founder of the World Food Prize.

“Most Americans, we decorate our homes with wheat or corn,” Poling said. “That’s a very good sign of agricultural abundance.”

Poling brought an ornamental display of wheat to the school board meeting. Scarbrough later had something to add to Poling’s statement.

“I don’t think there will be real respect for agriculture until we’re fighting in the streets over food in this country,” Scarbrough said. “We are so fortunate that this (wheat display) can just be a decoration here, and in another country, it’s a week’s meal.”

The student achievements do not end with Poling’s accomplishments. Three students went to a state convention and conducted an agricultural science experiment with the assistance of various colleges.

“It’s really highly academic work,” Scarbrough said.

Two of the three students placed second in the state, Cole Payne and Mikenze Poling, Mikinna Poling’s sister. Mikinna Poling placed first in that state competition. Her experiment will be judged on a national level. If she is chosen as a finalist, she will be entered into the National Agriscience Fair that takes place in October in Louisville, Ky.

Mikenze Poling also was elected to be the first vice president of the central region of the state’s Future Farmers of America Association from the Buckhannon-Upshur chapter in 20 years. Through this opportunity, she will attend advanced leadership training and may experience personal growth to help ignite her leadership potential, Scarbrough said. She will represent West Virginia at the National Future Farmers of America Convention.

Justin Poling also won second place in a horse judging competition. The student dairy team placed second in West Virginia. The team consists of five students: Mikenze Poling, Mikinna Poling, Justin Poling, Bobby Heater and Cole Payne.

Scarbrough also announced that Heater placed first in the state in the area of small animal care in agriculture. She also made National Gold.

“I get a little bit emotional, because it’s really hard to get into the final round,” Scarbrough said. “We’re talking about 50 states, and they all send an applicant. Bobby was National Gold, which means that she was probably in the top seven in the nation.”