It is a huge honor to join your community. Thank you already for all the warm words of welcome. I aim to be a servant-leader, synthesizing the wishes of you all, my fellow members, into compromises that honor our mission and vision, sustaining the network and allowing it to grow.
Why do I want to give my energy to YPARD? Because youth are so important for changing and leading global food systems. At the moment, youth have a limited voice in international policy dialogues and the forces which shape our food systems. If we are included, it is often as a token young face, but not with real decision-making power, and we rarely have a vote in international committees, even when these have representation from civil society. After we graduate from educational institutions, opportunities for education and access to information often become much more limited, although we are still at a time in our lives where we are thirsty to learn, grow and engender change.
Networks like YPARD are filling this gap. YPARD is the only international agricultural network which focuses on youth even outside their time in formal educational institutions. The power of organizing young people cannot be understated. By creating leadership opportunities by youth for youth, we create practical learning experiences which cannot be gained in any classroom or seminar. YPARD is the freedom to launch a project because we have passion, and removes the prerequisite of years of practical experience. How does one ever get these years of practical experience if we are always too green and too young to start? Many of us are young professionalsexperts in our own right. And when can we openly acknowledge that those with the most experience have exacerbated many social and environmental ills into crisis? Less experience in broken systems may let us break free of their faults.
Then there are the life-long international friendships, upon which international trust, collaboration, and cooperation are built. It is not an exaggeration to say that YPARD is not only a place to launch projects, learn and grow but a force for international peace.
How did I get involved in international agriculture? When I was 21 years, old, I was elected President of an international NGO operating in 36 countries, the International Association of Agriculture and Related Sciences Students (IAAS). Six months before was my first time outside my home country, the USA, as I traveled to Sweden for the IAAS European Directors Meeting. My life has never been the same since. Through IAAS, I found friendships that supported me, made me feel at home, and empowered us to launch projects together. It was fun; it was a way to give back, and now I realize it gave me the most formative learning experience of my young adult life. I am still close with my friends from IAAS, and I even met my (future) spouse during this time.
International partnership work for agriculture gets me up in the morning, and I already love serving YPARD. I look forward to meeting each of you, and please be in touch any time.