Global Classroom’s World Citizen Essay Contest

*The goal of the World Citizen Essay Contest is to promote discussion among students, teachers, families, and community members about the ways that individuals can effect positive change in the global community.*

2018 World Citizen Essay Contest

SDG Wheel Flyer



The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, were agreed upon by the United Nations in 2015 to address vital global issues by 2030. They are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and work toward peace and prosperity for all. 

Although these ambitious goals are interconnected, each emphasizes a different area of development, including: education, gender equality, health, water and sanitation, environment, poverty, hunger, peace and justice, etc. (To learn more about all 17 goals, please check out the following website

Overall, the 17 goals represent an opportunity for our local, national, and global communities to improve the living standards of all people in all regions of the world. How do you think you could make difference in achieving one of these goals? Where would you want to work (local or global context) toward achieving this goal and why? How would you make achieving this goal sustainable?

You can also check out these intro videos with Malala and Emma Watson

Essay Prompt:

You have recently received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “take action” toward achieving ONE of the 17 Global Goals (SDGs). In 1,000 words or less, explain why you chose this goal, what region (local or global context) of the world you would work to address it (and why), and what steps or actions you would take to make it sustainable.

Note: For “region,” you could discuss a region of the world, specific country context, or a local community.

Suggestion for Elementary Teachers: You may want to choose ONE of the Global Goals that is connected to your curriculum standards and have your entire class focus on that goal.

Suggestion for Secondary Teachers: You may give students the option to choose ONE of the 17 goals or pre-select which goal you would like your students to address in their essay.


2018 WCEC Rule Sheet

2018 WCEC Cover Form fillable

2018 WCEC Judging Rubric

Extra materials for educators and students are listed below:

Introduction to the Global Goals (includes lesson plans for all grade levels)

SDG Essay Resource Packet for Educators


We are pleased to announce that this year prize support is once again sponsored by Expedia, Inc. Details on specific prizes will be available in the near future.


Please submit essays including a cover form to by the deadline: Friday, March 16th


If you are interested in judging the 2018 Essay Contest, please fill out the 2018 WCEC Judge Contact Form and email it to

The World Citizen Essay Contest is made possible by the generous support of Expedia Inc, as part of the Expedia Cares initiative.



Previous Essay Contests 

2017 World Citizen Essay Contest

The United Nations has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Now is your chance to engage as a Sustainable Traveler…

You have won an all-expenses-paid trip to the destination of your choice. In 1,000 words or less, describe where you will go (and why), and explain what steps you will take to make sure that your travels are truly sustainable.

Congratulations to our 18th Annual World Citizen Essay Contest winners!


Students were celebrated at a public awards ceremony on May 2nd with keynote speaker Katherine Cheng, head of the global corporate citizenship and community relations for Expedia, Inc. 

Read all of the winning World Citizen Essays here

2016 World Citizen Essay Contest

In the 2015-2016 school year, the World Affairs Council partnered with Water1st International; our prompt asked students to think critically and be engaged as global citizens by addressing one of the most critical issues of our time: The worldwide water crisis.

Congratulations to our 17th Annual World Citizen Essay Contest winners!

The student winners were celebrated at a public awards ceremony on May 5th, with keynote speaker and former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Jeff Raikes, and featuring the founder of Water1st International Marla Smith-Nilson. 

CLICK HERE to watch Jeff Raikes’ keynote at our Essay Contest Awards Ceremony

CLICK HERE to watch the Q & A with Jeff Raikes and Marla Smith-Nilson

Read all of the winning essays here.

2015 World Citizen Essay Contest

The student winners were celebrated at a public awards ceremony on May 26th with keynote speaker Margaret Larson of KING 5 News. Check out video from the event here.  

Congratulations to our Winners:

winners in table_website graph


Washington State students in grades 3 through 12 were invited to think like a foreign news correspondent with the following essay prompt: 

In our increasingly interconnected world, it is important to be informed of issues and events around the globe in order to better understand and engage with the people around us. If you were a foreign news correspondent, where would you like to be assigned? What story would you cover and how would you gather the necessary information? Why do you think this is an important story to tell?

Read the winning essays here

Zara Rupp, The Water Crisis

Ruby Whorton, Disappearance to ISIS

Katie Wade, The Effects of Boycotting Chocolate: Good or Bad for Child Laborers in Cote d’Ivoire?

2014 World Citizen Essay Contest

On June 5th, Rick Steves joined the World Affairs Council and essay contest winners to speak on the value of thoughtful travel and present students with their certificates and prizes. 

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Congratulations to our winners:


Grades 3-5

Grades 6-8

Grades 9-12

First PlaceAryeh Tenbroek, Bryant Elementary, “Freedom for Tibet”Anirudh Prakash, Odle Middle School, “Piracy: A Conspiracy to Shun Ancient Growth”Daaniya Iyaz, STEM HS, “Peering Across the Partition”
Second PlaceRoberto Kannapell, Bryant Elementary, “Guatemalan Coffee”Melinda Day, Tahoma Middle School, “Broadening Perspectives Through Travel”Warisha Soomro, STEM High School, “The ‘Perfect’ Destination”
Third PlaceGilly Wolf, Bryant Elementary, “Ethiopia”Gabrielle Chappell, College Place Middle School, “World Citizen Essay”Marium Raza, Redmond High School, “Hopeless Paradise: Questions about the Future of Swat Valley, Pakistan”

Read about the way these students are thinking about the world beyond our borders! Find excerpts and the full essays here.

Washington State students in grades 3-12 were 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 haintroduced 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? 

We received nearly 450 essays this year! Thank you to everyone who participated. And thank you to our volunteer judges!

2013 World Citizen Essay Contest

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.



Congratulations to our 2013 World Citizen Essay Contest Winners:


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”

2012 Games Without Borders Youth Challenge 

Congratulations to the winners of our First Annual Games Without Borders Youth Challenge!

In lieu of the World Citizen Essay Contest, Global Classroom encouraged students to apply their knowledge of and passion for gaming while learning about world issues. Since fun, educational games about global topics are hard to find, GC gave Puget Sound students a new challenge: create a game that young people would love eto play and that would raise awareness about a global topic or issue.

The winners were:

Middle School Division:

Children of Change by McKenna Sevruk (7th grade, Tahoma Middle School)Middle School Division:

Microloan Adventures by Luke Johnson, Christo Pamboukas, Joey Peterson, and Reed Stever (7th grade, Tahoma Middle School)

High School Division: 

Animal Rescue: The Video Game by Kaylene Stocking and Sarah Yerrace (9th grade, Timbercrest Junior High)

Let’s Trade! by Alina Amkhavong, Hannah Madani, Cristina Martinez, and Sahar Mohammad (10th grade, Kent-Meridian High School)

Syria at Risk by Sopheaktra Danh and Melody Northcutt (12th grade, Aviation High School)

To learn more about this contest, visit our Games Without Borders Youth Challenge webpage.

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?


11th 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