Red Wing student helps people not go hungryTessa Ries is passionate about food.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Tessa Ries is passionate about food.
But it’s not cooking or eating that really grabs the Red Wing High School student’s attention. Instead, Ries’ interest lies on a more grassroots level: Helping disadvantaged countries gain access to food by developing new agriculture practices.
“I think it’s really sad that so many people go hungry,” Ries said.
Hunger is something that has been on the forefront of Ries’ mind since she was little. Growing up on her parents’ corn and soybean farm near Hastings made Ries aware of where food comes from.
“I realized how other countries can’t go to a grocery store and buy food like we can,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to help these people.”
This summer, the soon-to-be high school senior will get the chance to do just that.
Ries leaves Friday to spend 60 days in Ankara, Turkey, at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. Her internship is part of the World Food Prize, which was started by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug.
“It’s pretty selective to get into it,” said RWHS agriculture teacher Chris Sheehan. “It’s so cool that she got picked for it.”
Only 21 students from across the United States were chosen. Sheehan said it’s no surprise that Ries is one of them.
“Tessa’s amazing,” he said. “You mention one word to her and she’ll take off with the opportunity.”
Ries started the application process for the internship more than a year ago. The first step was writing a five-page paper about how food security could be improved in specific country.
Ries choose to write about Guatemala, a country she visited when she was 10 years old. Her paper outlined how agronomy education could improve food production.
“You had to know a lot,” Ries said of the paper.
From there, Ries was selected to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa, last October. Then she had to submit a resume and a paper about why she wanted to be part of the internship program.
“I told about how I grew up on a farm and that I’m interested in crops,” Ries said.
Of about 60 applicants, Ries was one of about 30 who asked to an in-person interview in late January. Ries then got her acceptance letter in February.
A second letter came in March informing Ries that she will be interning in Turkey. She admitted her placement came as a bit of a surprise.
“I was 100 percent sure I would be going to China,” she said.
Still, Ries added that she’s not at all disappointed with her destination. And though she’ll be the only Food Prize intern in Turkey, she’s not nervous about living in a foreign country.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge to leave everything I know,” Ries said. “I’m just excited. I know I’m going to learn a lot.”
Sheehan added that the experience will be a jumping off point for Ries’ career.
“When she comes back from it, she’ll have a million opportunities,” he said. “It’s such an important internship.”
But for Ries, the most important part is being able to do research and work with professional researchers. She’ll spend her time in the center’s labs as well as the fields.
“I’ll be there to help them and actually be a part of their team,” Ries said. “It means a lot to me to help others be stable in their food. It’s my passion and what I want to do.”