World Citizen Essay Contest and World Educator Award Ceremony 05.02

On May 2nd, 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. This year’s prompt was focused around the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution declaring 2017 The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.  Global Classroom challenged students across the state of Washington to think critically about what sustainable travel means, and write a 1000 word essay that addresses the steps students would take to be a sustainable traveler if given the opportunity for an all-expenses paid trip to the destination of their choice.  In addition to celebrating the student winners of our essay contest, we recognized our World Educator of 2016/2017 Eileen Hynes, from Lake and Park School. The celebration also featured Katherine Cheng, Expedia, Inc.’s Head of Global Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Relations as the keynote speaker.

The 2017 World Citizen Essay Contest and World Educator Award Ceremony was presented by Expedia, Inc. The Mark Torrance Foundation provided prize support.

Recognizing the 2016-2017 World Educator

Eileen HynesOur World Educator, Eileen Hynes is the Director of Thematic Studies at the Lake and Park School in Seattle, where she works throughout the school with each of the classrooms and all of the teachers.  As an educator, Eileen sees her role as that of a facilitator.  The classroom belongs to the community of children and teachers who come together to explore and to learn. As the teacher she works to create an environment that welcomes all children and reflects every child’s sense of self back to the community.  In the speech given at the event Eileen highlighted the necessity of today’s youth to make connections everywhere, “to listen to diverse ideas, and to collaborate to solve problems that are shared around the world”.  Eileen stressed that by stepping out of our comfort zones and exposing ourselves to that which is different we can broaden our points of view to be more compassionate, cooperative, and understanding global citizens.

Read Eileen Hynes’ full speech from May 2nd here.

Keynote Address and Discussion

Katherine ChengKatherine Cheng is the head of the global corporate citizenship and community relations for Expedia, Inc. In this role, Katherine oversees corporate grants and giving, volunteerism, and community engagement finding ways to keep Expedia’s global employees fulfilled in giving back to the communities where they live and work. Katherine has honed her skills in international business, strategic communications, and reputation management at some of the world’s most iconic brands, such as Microsoft and Starbucks as well as the U.S. government.  She also serves in various ways supporting the causes and organizations she deeply cares about.  

Discussing the future of international tourism, Katherine Cheng told the audience on Tuesday that “sustainable travel encompasses so much more than its original definition. It used to be about trying to limit your environmental footprint, but today, it’s really more important to minimize your environmental footprint while maximizing the human footprint”.  Katherine urged everyone to recognize the lifestyles, cultures, and people that make a place uniquely rich and to celebrate the diversity, rather than be critical of the differences “because, if we don’t look at sustainable tourism in this way, we are merely trespassers in another’s land.”

World Affairs Council President and CEO Jacqueline Miller moderated the Q&A discussion after Katherine’s keynote address. The Q & A provided an opportunity to learn more about Katherine’s views on the best ways to be a conscious traveler, and her various travel experiences fostering a compelling dialogue about the ways in which Katherine and her family approach sustainable travel.

Jackie and Katherine

World Citizen Essay Contest Ceremony

Our ceremony also celebrated the achievements of students across the state of Washington who participated in the 18th Annual World Citizen Essay Contest.  This year we received more than 500 submissions from 3rd-12th grade students across the state of Washington, in 40 schools, and across 21 school districts.  Students planned sustainable trips to 93 countries across all 7 continents. Global Classroom recruited nearly 100 volunteer judges, including expert judges at Expedia, Inc. Winning essays were each read by 7 different readers.  There were nine winners total, with three winners in three categories: grades 9-12, 6-8, and 3-5. This year’s winners are:

Rebekah Huber, an 11th grade student at Colfax High School; Ellie Roza, an 11th grade student at Lakeside High School; Kaisa Nordal-Jonsson, a 12th grade student at Science and Math Institute; Katie Kotler, an 8th grade student at International Community School; Madeleine Goertz, an 8th grade student at International Community School; Celeste Zinmon-Htet, a 7th grade student at Hamilton International Middle School; Cameron Trichel, a 5th grade student at Somerset Elementary School; Anish Sharma, a 3rd grade student at Bellevue Children’s Academy; and Audrey Smith, a 5th grade student at Bryant Elementary School.

All students
Winning essays will be featured on the World Affairs Council’s website.

Congratulations to all of our winners, as well as the more than 500 students who participated in this year’s contest, and took on a range of critical issues related to sustainable travel.  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 Expedia 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 promoting the mission of the World Affairs Council by highlighting the excellent work of some of Washington’s finest students. 


Kaisa Nordal-Jonsson speaks about sustanable travel in Iceland

Kaisa Nordal-Jonsson speaks about sustainable travel in Iceland

MS Winners

1st place student in the Middle School category, Katie Kotler, tells the audience about her essay on travelling to Guatemala

4th place winner in the High School category

4th place winner in the High School category

Anish Sharma, 3rd grade students, tells the audience about his sustainable trip to Bhutan

Anish Sharma, 3rd grade students, tells the audience about his sustainable trip to Bhutan