12 Iowa High School Students Chosen for Trip to China

Trip includes visits to historic sites, three-day attachment to a leading seed company, visits to local markets and farms, and tours of the cities


AMES, Iowa — Visiting farmers’ markets, exploring farming practices and interacting with other cultures are just some of the activities 12 Iowa high school students are looking forward to during their summer trip to China. The trip is part of a program designed to help Iowa youth gain the necessary international knowledge and skills to meet the demands of the new global economy.

“Today’s youth increasingly have a need to understand the growing global economy, their place in it and how they can meet its needs,” said Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association. “Students have a great opportunity to be exposed to new and different cultures and experiences during this trip, which will help equip them to analyze issues from a global perspective.”

Twelve students from Iowa high schools were selected to take part in the Global Youth Excellence Program’s China Leadership Experience. The Global Youth Excellence Program is sponsored by Iowa State University Extension, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Iowa Soybean Association. Leaders from all three sponsors will accompany the students on the trip to China from July 31 to Aug. 9.

“Giving Iowa high school students an opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures will pay great dividends as Iowa continues to play a critical role in the fast growing global food system,” said Jerry Miller, interim vice president of Iowa State University Extension. “The pool of applicants was impressive and I am confident we have selected a terrific group to represent Iowa agriculture and the state of Iowa.”

A call for applications went out in March and ended April 29. Sixty-nine students applied for the opportunity and the 12 participants and two alternates were chosen by a group of four representatives of the sponsors. Eligible students are entering their sophomore and junior years in fall and each student had to complete an application and answer five essay questions.

“The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is pleased to be part of this important youth program. We are very hopeful that this group will greatly expand their knowledge of China and share what they learn with others,” said Craig Lang, president of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

Students selected for the trip

  • Carrie Adrian, a freshman from Knoxville, attends Knoxville High School and is active in band, choir, soccer, cross country, 4-H and her church youth group. She likes sharing what she has learned by making presentations to local communities and at the Iowa State Fair. She is excited to tell her stories to people when she returns. Adrian plays the tuba and is “not afraid to be noticed or to speak out and be heard – just like my tuba.”
  • Nicholas Ahern, a freshman from Avoca, attends AHST Community High School and is an active Boy Scout and currently working on becoming an Eagle Scout. He has competed in the FCCLA at the national level and has also competed in the Iowa High School Battle of the Books at the state level. In addition, Ahern plays the saxophone and the piano, and is active in the community’s swim team. This trip will help him “develop the skills to interact with people of other cultures” and help fulfill his dream of becoming a foreign ambassador one day.
  • Bradley Aronson, a freshman from Albert City, attends Sioux Central High School, is a member of the FFA and has received several awards including the Star Green Hand Award and the Ag Sales Proficiency Award for high fruit sales. Recently he has been selected to be part of the Iowa Youth Technology Team. Aronson enjoys volunteering and is currently raising funds to do community service work in New Orleans in the summer of 2012. In his free time he enjoys woodworking, welding, architectural designing and spending time with his dog. He attributes his communication and organizational skills to 4-H. Aronson hopes to visit the Chinese farmers' markets, learn how they market their produce and “bring back this knowledge to share with others.”
  • Brandy Childers, a sophomore from Red Oak, attends Red Oak High School, is very involved in numerous school and community activities and is a secretary in the FCCLA. She also is an active volunteer in her community. She looks forward to sharing with her community what she will learn on this trip and “perhaps change any misconceptions people may have [of the Chinese culture].”
  • Izak Christensen, a freshman from Osage, attends Osage High School, is an active 4-H member and serves as the vice president of the club. He also serves on the Mitchell County Council where he helps plan and supervise community activities. In addition to the many community service projects he is involved in, Christensen helps out in his family farm and looks forward to seeing the Chinese farming techniques and “what their farms actually look like with my own eyes.”
  • Kelsey Dennis, a sophomore from Ames, attends Ames High School, where she participates in sports and is very involved in music activities. Dennis also is involved in SHEPH: Students Helping to Eliminate Poverty and Hunger; a school-sponsored club at Ames High. She is passionate about working with children and teaching, and is currently a student teacher for a kindergarten class and a Hebrew teacher for a third grader. She hopes that this trip will give her a chance “to experience something [she is] not even capable of dreaming about.”
  • Jared Gradeless, a sophomore from Melrose, attends Wayne Community High School and is currently the president of the Washington Willing Workers 4-H Club and involved in many activities in school. Gradeless “loves to help others by volunteering in the community” and helps out with the family farm when he is not in school. He believes that “one person can truly make a difference in this world”, and he aspires to be that person. Gradeless hopes to share information about his town and “how we farm and protect the environment,” with the Chinese students he will meet during the trip.
  • Sarah Rethwisch, a sophomore from Fort Dodge, attends Fort Dodge Senior High. She is currently the president of her 4-H club and has taken a number of presentations to the State Fair. She was involved in the People to People Student Ambassador Program that aims to get to know other cultures and promote world peace and earned her tuition by selling fleece blankets and scarves. She hopes to learn and understand the Chinese people better and share this knowledge through the Lion’s Club, 4-H club, school, churches and people within the community.
  • Hannah Riensche, a sophomore from Jesup, attends Jesup High School. She has held and continues to hold several leadership appointments including president of the freshman class and is currently vice president of the sophomore class and the chapter vice president of the FFA. She contributes to the community through teaching Sunday school. The budding agriculturalist is “eager to learn more about the differences and similarities between agriculture in China and the U.S., and the ways we can work together.”
  • Preston Schaaf, a freshman from Tabor, attends Fremont Mills High School where he serves on the student council and has been a class officer. He competes in high school policy debate at the national level, and will be attending a six-week debate camp in Atlanta in the summer. Schaaf is currently the secretary of the Riverside Rockets 4-H club, and has served as the reporter, historian and photographer and is involved in regular volunteer activities. Schccaaf also is one of the 16 students selected to serve on the 2011 Iowa Youth Technology Team. Having lived in the “relatively non-diverse Midwest,” he hopes to “break down the walls of our small community … and be able to share” these experiences with the others in his community through this “tremendous opportunity.”
  • Mandy Thompson, a freshman from Pleasantville, attends Pleasantville High School. She has been a Girl Scout for the last eight years and has been volunteering at Toys for Tots the last five years. Thompson attributes her leadership development to agriculture classes and FFA, and continues to broaden her leadership skills by attending conferences. Involvement in school and community are very important to Thompson and she hopes to gain “global travel experience and relate to others with the same aspirations and commonalities” with this trip to China.
  • Michael Tupper, a freshman from Ionia, attends New Hampton High School. He is involved in numerous activities including 4-H, FFA, student senate and church youth group. He believes that these activities have helped him become a “strong team player and a strong individual leader.” His achievements include winning the junior and intermediate swine showman, and he placed second in the northeast district livestock judging contest. Tupper hopes to “step out of [his] box and try to gain a new experience” to reach his “full potential of making an impact on the world” through this trip to China.

For more information or questions, please contact Sok Leng Tan at 515-231-3670 or sokleng@iastate.edu.

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Additional contacts:
Dirck Steimel, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, DSteimel@ifbf.org
Karen Simon, Iowa Soybean Association, KSimon@iasoybeans.com