The Future of Water Worldwide – WAC 5/5/16 event

On May 5th, Global Classroom celebrated the exceptional work of students, teachers, and community leaders from the Greater Seattle Area at our annual World Educator and Essay Contest Award Ceremony. Partnering with Water1st International, Global Classroom challenged students across the state of Washington to think critically about solutions to water crises worldwide, and write a 1000 word essay that addresses a particular water crisis anywhere in the world. In addition to celebrating the student winners of our essay contest, we recognized our World Educator of 2015/2016 Pat Grant, from University Prep. The celebration also featured Jeff Raikes, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and board chair of the Water for Food Institute, as the keynote speaker, as well as our World Citizen of 2015 and the founder and CEO of Water1st International, Marla Smith-Nilson.  

Recognizing the 2015-2016 World Educator

Our World Educator, Pat Grant is an Economics and History teacher and 12th Grade Level Dean at University Prep in Seattle. In his 30-year teaching career, Pat has exemplified what it means to be a World Educator by promoting global understanding in his school, in the community, and around the world. In a speech given at this event, Pat stressed the critical importance of education as one of the most vital tools for combatting the world’s most daunting problems, and echoed Butler Yeats, saying: “Education is not the filling of the pail but the lighting of a fire.” Pat reminded us of the value of travel and international exchange, and also left us with a poignant thought: while travel is one of the best ways to become a compassionate and educated global citizen, one can also look across the classroom at fellow students to learn more about the world.

Keynote Address and Discussion

Jeff Raikes comes from a diverse background; and yet, from growing up on a farm in Nebraska, to working as the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to co-founding his own foundation with his wife, Tricia, engaging with issues in water and agriculture have continually shaped Jeff’s interests and work. In his keynote address, Jeff highlighted the importance of what he calls “Catalytic Philanthropy,” which means giving grants that can spark significant, long-lasting changes, in ways that that can help a range of people in a variety of countries and geographies. In order to solve the world’s biggest problems, philanthropists need to look for high leverage opportunities, give grants that transform entire systems, look for new inventions and ways of doing things, and spread new technologies to as many people and places as possible. Jeff thoughtfully incorporated the thoughts of our essay contest winners into his address, commending the student winners for thinking in terms of sustainable, dynamic, and “catalytic” solutions to some of today’s most pressing crises.

Marla Smith-Nilson, our 2015 World Citizen Award winner, moderated the Q&A discussion after Jeff’s keynote address. Marla added her own perspective as someone deeply invested in creating sustainable solutions to water crises in contexts around the world, and fostered a compelling dialogue about ways that students can lend their voices in order to help mitigate the water crisis.

World Citizen Essay Contest Ceremony

Our ceremony also celebrated the achievements of students across the state of Washington who participated in the 17th Annual World Citizen Essay Contest. This year, more that 350 essays were submitted from 53 schools and 26 school districts across the state. Global Classroom enlisted the help of 50 volunteer judges, including a team of expert judges from the Gates Foundation Visitor Center, to read and score all of the essays. There were nine winners total, with three winners in three categories: grades 9-12, 6-8, and 3-5. This year’s winners are:

Matthew Tran, a 12th grade student at Glacier Peak High School; Sara Major, an 11th grader at Glacier Peak High School; Shannon Hong, a 9th grader at Skyview Junior High School; Maya Sharma, a 6th grader at Eastside Preparatory School; Ronit Jain, an 8th grade student at Odle Middle School; Amelia Hanley, a 7th grader at Hamilton International Middle School; Sydney Whipple, a 4th grade student at McDonald International School; Bergen Brown, a 5th grader at Bryant Elementary School; and Delphine Way, a 5th grader at The Lake and Park School.

Winning essays will be featured on the World Affairs Council’s website, as well as in the Seattle Globalist.

Congratulations to all of our winners, as well as the more than 350 students who participated in this year’s contest, and took on a range of critical issues related to water worldwide. The essay contest isn’t possible without the submissions from students who are actively engaging with global topics and who show an interest in making the world a better place.

The World Affairs Council and Global Classroom would also like to extend our deepest gratitude to Water1st International and the Mark Torrance Foundation for supporting this year’s winners, as well as Hamilton International Middle School for a beautiful venue to host this event, and the Seattle Globalist for promoting the mission of the World Affairs Council by highlighting the excellent work of some of Washington’s finest students.