AriAnna Thomas ’19 Inspired to Help India’s Urbanization Challenge

AriAnna Thomas ’19 was awarded a spot at the 25th Annual Global Youth Institute hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines.

AriAnna Thomas ’19 spent part of her summer identifying and solving one of the world’s biggest challenges—India’s urbanization effect. As part of a Careers in Agriculture summer camp at Tuskegee University, she was tasked with writing an essay identifying a country with food security issues and providing a resolution. AriAnna’s essay and recommendations were so well received, that she was awarded a spot at the 25th Annual Global Youth Institute hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa, October 17 to 20. 

“They told me it had to be seven pages single space, and I told them they were crazy,” she admitted. “But I had heard about the problems in India before, the overcrowding, poor sanitation, and so on, and thought that maybe I could help.”

Her extensive research found that the average family in India only makes enough money to provide two meals per day. She identified how this problem is a result of urbanization. “Through my research, I found out that due to urbanization, India had a lot of problems with food security, as well as pollution, overcrowding, and sanitation,” said AriAnna. “I thought that if buildings could be more spread out, then people would be more widely located around the cities instead of all in one area. I recommended that businesses be offered money to relocate to other parts of the cities. Then they could also offer housing to their workers in those areas and that would help with the overcrowding. I also recommended that ten percent of the land that the businesses were given needed to be reserved for agricultural, which would help the food problem.”

Another part of AriAnna’s recommendation was inspired by her experience being a lead tour guide at George School. “When I give tours to prospective students I’m always asked about our green efforts,” she said. “I talk a lot about the library and fitness center being LEED certified, so I thought that this might be something that could help in India too.”

AriAnna’s research found the Indian Green Building Council, a group whose vision is to enable a sustainable built environment for all and facilitate India to be one of the global leaders in the sustainable built environment by 2025. “I know a lot about LEED certifications from school, so I recommended that the new buildings be LEED certified. That, along with the land being preserved for agricultural needs, would help the pollution and food issues. I thought they could fundraise the money to fund the program,” she said.

During the 25th Annual Global Youth Institute AriAnna interacted with young leaders from ten other countries including Brazil, Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Honduras, Kosovo, Mexico, and the Philippines. This year’s featured speakers included Dr. Lawrence Haddad and Dr. David Nabarro, 2018 World Food Prize Laureates; Mercedez Araoz, Vice President of Peru; Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria; and Dr. Louise Fresco, President of the Executive Board at Wageningen University & Research Center.

“I can’t believe I got the chance to meet a president and vice president,” said AriAnna. “I was like, this is so cool. All of the speakers were actually really great. That was my favorite part, hearing from so many smart, powerful leaders. I also met some interesting students from all over. That was fun.”

AriAnna is a senior boarding student from Raleigh, North Carolina. Upon graduation, she would like to study nutrition and hopes to become a physical therapist or athletic trainer. In addition to her role as a lead tour guide, she is also a prefect and member of the student activities board.

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