World Citizen Essay Contest

Announcing the 15th Annual World Citizen Essay Contest!

If You Were Rick Steves…

This year Washington State students in grades 3-12 will be asked to respond to the following prompt:

Rick Steves

Rick Steves

Through his book, TV and radio shows, guided tours, and public speaking engagements, Rick Steves has introduced Americans to many parts of the world. His recent book, Travel as a Political Act, suggests that travel may be important for reasons that go beyond a dream vacation. Rick Steves has traveled to Iran, Israel, and Palestine among other places, with the goal of making connections with and understanding the concerns of the people who live there.

If you traveled with the same goal, where would you go and why?  What would you hope to learn? How will traveling to this place and meeting its residents broaden your perspectives – why is this important? 

Winners will be recognized on our website and receive prizes including a copy of Rick Steves’ book, Travel as a Political Act. Winners will also have the opportunity to meet Rick Steves at the awards ceremony on June 5th. Help spread the word by downloading this flyer.

Get Started:

Essay Contest Rules

Getting Started Resource Guide

Judging Rubric

The essay contest deadline has now passed. Thank you to everyone who participated! If you have any questions, please email

By submitting an essay, you pledge that the entry is your own work. You agree to abide by all guidelines and requirements of the World Citizen Essay Contest. Questions? Email

Thank you to all our volunteer judges!

Previous Essay Contest Topics

Congratulations to our 2013 World Citizen Essay Contest Winners!

Washington students in grades 3 through 12 were invited to enter the blogosphere with this prompt:

Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl

We celebrated our winners at a special event at the Seattle Asian Art Museum with Nancy Pearl on May 30th. At the ceremony, the winners received their cash prizes, a certificate, and a copy of Nancy Pearl’s book, Book Crush.




Grades 3-5

Grades 6-8

Grades 9-12

First PlaceKayla Lay, View Ridge Elementary School, “The Brave Little TurtleQuinn Sullivan, Eckstein Middle School, “Be Brave”Emily Geyman, Lakeside School, “Weep Not, Child: The Light of Kenya, a Story of Hope”
Second PlaceGrace Harman, Bryant Elementary School, “A School Life”Anna Galbraith, Eckstein Middle School, “Persevering in the Darkest of Times: Wisdom from Maus”Madeline Bennett, Redmond High School, “Becoming Conscious”
Third PlaceCora Wright, Bryant Elementary,“The Breadwinner”Harriet Wright, Eckstein Middle School, “Breaking Down Walls”Meg Leonard, Redmond High School, “Abby Takes a Stand”


13th Annual World Citizen Essay Contest (2011)

Congratulations to our 2011 World Citizen Essay Contest Winners!

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the World Affairs Council and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair, the World Affairs Council embarked on a two-year partnership with the Seattle Center Foundation.

The question for the 2011 World Citizen Essay Contest was:
“Looking back over the last sixty years, please identify a Puget Sound-based innovation that has left its mark around the world. Explain why and how this innovation had an impact beyond the United States. (This impact can be related to the arts, sports, music, popular culture, technology, civic action, global health, education, manufacturing, etc.)”

Thank you to all of the students who submitted essays and to the outstanding judges who volunteered their time to read them all!

Our special congratulations to the following students who were the top finalists in each category. Click on the links below to read excerpts from our winning essays.

Grades 3-5Grades 6-8Grades 9-12
First PlaceKendall Barton Bryant Elementary School “Theo Chocolate”Arun Palaniappan Odle Middle School “Eradicating Deadly Diseases: The Washington Global Health Alliance”Zanwar Faraj Sammamish High School “The New Era of Commerce”
Second PlaceJacob Cain View Ridge Elementary School “, It’s Something New”Zachary Cushman Haller Middle School “Achievements of Ultra Rice”Blake Peterson Kamiakin Junior High School “Innovations in a Cup of Coffee”
Third PlaceAlex MacLean Bryant Elementary School “Dale Chihuly, A Northwest Innovator”Matthew Taylor Haller Middle School “SightLife”Elena Plenefisch Kamiakin Junior High School “Healthcare to Go”

On June 23rd, 2011 World Citizen Essay Contest winners were interviewed about global innovation on Public Exposure SCAN-TV. Watch the 30 minute interview here.

12th Annual World Citizen Essay Contest (2010)

The question for the 2010 World Citizen Essay Contest was:

“Despite the ever increasing importance of understanding the histories, governments, and cultures, of people from all over the world, many news organizations in recent years have had to cut their foreign correspondent staff. If you were a journalist on an international assignment, where would you like to go, what issue would you cover, and why? “

Thank you to the 390 students who submitted essays and the 78 judges who spent time reading them all. Essay Contest winners were being honored at a Global Classroom Celebration on May 17th, 2010.

Our special congratulations to the following students, top finalists in each category.

3rd-5th Grade6th-8th Grade9th-12th Grade
First  PlaceJerry Xu Stevenson Elementary Land and Religion WarsErica Ng University Prep Developing Countries and EducationMelissa Chan Eastside Catholic High School A Thing Called Beauty
Second PlaceEvelyn Doran View Ridge Elementary School Child Servitude in India: Shedding Light on a Dark SubjectEmma Every Lakeside School Finding Their VoiceAnna Bjarvin Timbercrest Junior High Addressing World Issues- Brazil Deforestation
Third PlaceMadeline West Bryant Elementary School The Forgotten WarAshlen Ahearne Woodward Middle School Searching for the Elusive Keys to Co-ExistenceMadeline Kleiner University Prep Is There a Jihad Against Freedom of Expression?

1th Annual World Citizen Essay Contest (2009)

The question for the 2009 World Citizen Essay Contest was:

“Imagine that you are Hillary Rodham Clinton, the new U.S. Secretary of State and head of the U.S. Department of State, which has a mission to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community. Describe one international issue you think is important today. Why do you think this issue is important to both the U.S. and the world? Considering the mission of the U.S. Department of State, what would you do about this issue?”

Thank you to the 215 students who submitted essays and the 78 judges who spent time reading them all. Essay Contest winners were being honored at a Global Classroom Celebration on May 27th, 2009.

Our special congratulations to the following students, top finalists in each category.

3rd-5th Grade6th-8th Grade9th-12th Grade
First  PlaceJacob Clayton Bryant Elementary School Turn Down the HeatAnna Kimura Odle Middle School Afghanistan:Give Diplomacy a ChancePavallan Mohan Inglemoor High School Returning Israel and Palestine Back on Track for Peace
Second PlaceNathan McDermott Stevenson Elementary School Nuclear Weapons in IranSarah Williams Odle Middle School Clean Energy for a Better WorldRima Kaboul Inglemoor High School Freedom from Genocide in the Darfur Region
Third PlaceSam Nasralla Bryant Elementary School Putting Food in Your Car You Won’t Get FarKristin Hirata Odle Middle School Making a Positive Impression on the WorldLeifur Gunnarsson Roosevelt High School Poverty: A Universal Dilemma


10th Annual World Citizen Essay Contest (2008)

The question from the 2008 World Citizen Essay Contest was:

“In April, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (1989 Nobel Prize winner for Peace) will journey to Seattle to discuss and celebrate compassion in action with Seattle-area youth, educators, and policy makers. Definition: ‘Compassionate acts are generally considered those which take into account the suffering of others and attempt to alleviate that suffering as if it were one’s own.’ (From Wikipedia – as cited by the organization Seeds of Compassion) A) Considering the definition above, identify an individual who has been moved by compassion to take action on a problem. Describe his or her work. How did he or she demonstrate compassion? B) Now, imagine yourself as an adult. Following in this individual’s footsteps, what international issue would you want to tackle? Why is this issue important? What steps might you take to resolve the issue? Why does this issue awaken compassion in you?”

Thank you to the over 200 students who submitted essays and the 33 judges who spent time reading them all. Essay contest winners were honored at a special reception and award ceremony on June 17, 2008.

Our special congratulations to the following students, top finalists in each category.

3rd-5th Grade6th-8th Grade9th-12th Grade
First  PlaceKarthik Meiyappan Stevenson Elementary Ghandi, Savior of HarijansAdriana Cvitkovic The Northwest School Seeds of ComplianceAngelia Tyler West Seattle High Taking Care of Our World 
Second PlaceKathleen Zhu Stevenson Elementary Drilling Wells in Africa — Compassion in ActionCorryn Wetzel Seattle Girls’ School A Humanitarian Act to Create HabitatDavid Hyde The Overlake School Teaching Compassion 
Third PlaceSheuli Chowdhury Stevenson Elementary A Compassionate Hero: A Confluence of the Mind and HeartKrista Showalter Haller Middle School Seeds of CompassionIlham Abdulrahman Sammamish High School Father of the Year  

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