Nebraska AFJROTC unit takes part in college STEM-focused food security program

  • Published
  • By Retired Senior Master Sgt. Michael Miller
  • Air University Public Affairs

Lincoln public schools and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln joined together this year to launch an early college and career STEM program at Lincoln Northeast High School. Through hands-on immersive experiences and early college pathways, the program is designed to expose students to challenges in the areas of Food, Energy, Water and Societal Systems, or FEWS2

The NE-20091 Air Force Junior ROTC unit at Lincoln Northeast has been one of the leaders in blending these learning opportunities with the existing AFJROTC curriculum.

In the fall, UNL professors came to the Lincoln Northeast campus and taught a lesson to AFJROTC cadets on food security. The curriculum defined food security and explored the challenges to food security, both locally and globally. For the cadets it was a chance to expand on the healthy living and food choice lessons taught to them while also understanding a local and global leadership challenge. 

The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and the FEWS2 program then sponsored a field trip in the fall to the Lancaster Events Center, where cadets got to explore the County Agricultural Fair. Cadets were given a personal tour of the fair with stops to explore high-level farming machinery and GPS-based mapping to find water and other resources, remotely piloted aircraft that provide real-time crop updates and have the potential to spray crops, and finally, a conversation with local colleges about careers in the agricultural arena. The cadets then had half a day to explore and learn from the various displays at the fair. The trip was a resounding success and enjoyed by all of the cadets.

Toward the end of the fall semester, the AFJROTC instructors assigned all cadets to begin writing a paper for the Nebraska Youth Institutes program on the Global Food Prize. Cadets had to select a country other than the United States and research a challenge to food security in that country. Topics ranged from conflicts in Africa and the Middle East to scarcity in China and water shortages in desert climates. The papers had to be at least three pages, single spaced and include five scholarly references. Cadets worked on their research over the winter break and through the month of January. At the end of January they presented their papers to their classmates and 10 of them were chosen by a board of teachers and UNL staff to attend the Nebraska Youth Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

The 10 cadets that were selected spent the day with other students from across the state at the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. The day consisted of presenting their papers to other Nebraska students and hearing a keynote speaker address their role in solving food security challenges. They interacted with former United Nations members that specialized in global food security and participated in immersive lessons from college professors tied to their topic or interests. At the end of the day each cadets was named a Borlaug Scholar and presented with a $500 scholarship to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources. 

Unit NE-20091 is looking forward to incorporating the FEWS2 curriculum into the AFJROTC experience. The goal is for this program to bolster the AFJROTC curriculum and provide additional academic and leadership challenges for cadets to overcome. This summer, AFJROTC instructors will be working with the FEWS2 team to find other opportunities to challenge cadets and bring the university experience to the AFJROTC classroom.