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.

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2020 World Citizen Essay Contest!

Essay Prompt:
Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is targeted by United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5. If you were hired by the United Nations to lead a project addressing gender equality by empowering women and girls, what would you do? Where would you work and why? Finally, what specific steps would you take to achieve your goal?

The 2020 Winning Essays:

Grades 3-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12
First Place Anna Haber, McDonald International School

“4 Miles, Just to Get Water”

Andrea Chen, Tyee Middle School

“Paving a Road of Dreams: Female Education and Empowerment”

Eden Batiste, Raisbeck Aviation High School

“Equal Education for an Exceptional Future”

Second Place Sophia Leblang, McDonald International School

“1 Every 3 Seconds”

Zoe Pomeroy, Seattle Girls School

“Education for Afghan Girls”

Julia Lee, International Community School

“Project Menstrual Poverty in the Developed World”

Third Place Raphaela Berson, Bryant Elementary

“Girls Education in Nigeria: What can we do?”


Rohak Jain, Odle Middle School

“TeachRight: An Initiative with the Goal of Improving Literacy Rates and the Quality of Life of African Women”

Santoshi Pisupati,International Community School

“The Unrecognized Backbone of Society”



The World Citizen Essay Contest is Sponsored by the Expedia Group


The Center for Global Studies is a sponsor and partner of
World Affairs Council Global Classroom Programs.

Previous Essay Contests 

2019 World Citizen Essay Contest

Essay Prompt:
According to the World Health Organization, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 due to increased malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. Climate change can also have a negative impact on global health due to lack of clean air, safe drinking water, adequate food, and secure housing. If you had the opportunity to address the impact of climate change on global health, WHERE would you go, WHAT issue or concern would you try to solve and WHY, and WHAT steps would you take to bring about a sustainable solution?

The winning essays are below:

Grades 3-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12
First Place Chiara Wilcox, Bryant Elementary

“A Pencil and a Cup of Water”

Erica Bieber,  Seattle Girls School

“Water in the Sahel: A Treasured Resource”

Emily Garat, Glacier Peak High School

“Let’s Make Cholera ConGo Away!”

Second Place Edie Welch, McDonald International School

“Educate a Girl to Save the World”

Hannah Cutler, Hyla Middle School

“Tidal Power and Solar Roads: Clean Energy Solutions for a Country Going Green”

Keathley Brown, Mercer Island High School

“Listen to the Dreamers”

Third Place River Lewis-Gosch, McDonald International School

“How I Would Change the World”


Mihir Mishra, International Community School

“Solar Distillation: A Sustainable Solution to Climate Change Effects on an Impoverished Community”

Chloe Xitco, Tacoma Science and Math Institute

“Effects of Increased Temperatures on Human Health”


2018 World Citizen Essay Contest

The 2018 World Citizen Essay Contest challenged students to engage with the U.N. Sustainable Development goals, and find ways to address one of the goals in a sustainable manner.

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.

On May 10th winning students were celebrated at a public awards ceremony with keynote speaker Dennis Macray, COO of Theo Chocolate, and moderator Carol Welch, Director of Strategy, Planning and Management at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The winning essays are below:

Grades 3-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12
First Place Anish Sharma, Bellevue Children’s Academy

Taking Care of the Pacific Islands on the Front Lines of Climate Change

Maxwell Soh, International Community School

Hydroponic Farming: A Prospective Compromise Between Industry and Sustainability

Silas Batiste, South Whidbey High School

Clean Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

Second Place Theodore Lufkin, McDonald International School,

Securing a Brighter Future for the Burkina Faso People

Ayden Duchovnay, Seattle Girls’ School,

Students of the Street

Eden Iazeolla, Glacier Peak High School,

Our Generation Will Use Aquaponics to Change Africa

Third Place Mojo Woodman, McDonald International School,

Hunger is a goalie protecting us from the goal of zero hunger

Forest Berg, Washington Middle School

Plastic in our Oceans

David Trey Evans, Glacier Peak High School

Ensuring Good Health and Well-Being in India

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 the winning World Citizen Essays:

Rebekah Huber, Paving the Road for Sustainable Tourism in Lombok

Katie Kotler, Exploring Guatemala: An Example of Sustainable Travel in Central America

Cameron Trichel, A Vacation for the Earth

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 the winning essays:

Matthew Tran, Modernizing and Providing the Toilet: Achieving Global Health One Flush at a Time

Maya Sharma, Strategies and Solutions to Solve the Global Water Crisis

Sydney Whipple, Death by Water in Bangladesh

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

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:

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.


Congratulations to our winners:

Grades 3-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12
First Place Aryeh 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 Place Roberto Kannapell, Bryant Elementary, “Guatemalan Coffee” Melinda Day, Tahoma Middle School, “Broadening Perspectives Through Travel” Warisha Soomro, STEM High School, “The ‘Perfect’ Destination”
Third Place Gilly 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 the winning essays below:

Daaniya Iyaz, Peering Across the Partition

Anirudh Prakash, Piracy: A Conspiracy to Shun Ancient Growth

Aryeh Tenbroek, Freedom for Tibet

Washington State students in grades 3-12 were asked to respond to the following prompt:

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? 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 concernof the people who live there.

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

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 Place Kayla Lay, View Ridge Elementary School, The Brave Little Turtle Quinn Sullivan, Eckstein Middle School, Be Brave Emily Geyman, Lakeside School, Weep Not, Child: The Light of Kenya, a Story of Hope
Second Place Grace 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 Place Cora 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 to 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:

Micro Loan 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)

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 3-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12
First Place Kendall 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 Place Jacob Cain View Ridge Elementary School, it’s Something New Zachary Cushman Haller Middle School Ultra Rice Blake Peterson Kamiakin Junior High School Innovations in a Cup of Coffee
Third Place Alex 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 Grade 6th-8th Grade 9th-12th Grade
First  Place Jerry Xu Stevenson Elementary Land and Religion Wars Erica Ng University Prep Developing Countries and Education Melissa Chan Eastside Catholic High School A Thing Called Beauty
Second Place Evelyn Doran View Ridge Elementary School Child Servitude in India: Shedding Light on A Dark Subject Emma Every Lakeside School Finding Their Voice Anna Bjarvin Timbercrest Junior High Addressing World Issues-Brazil Deforestation
Third Place Madeline West Bryant Elementary School The Forgotten War Ashlen Ahearne Woodward Middle School Searching for the Elusive Keys to Co-existence on Madagascar Madeline 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 Grade 6th-8th Grade 9th-12th Grade
First  Place Jacob Clayton Bryant Elementary School Turn Down the Heat! Anna Kimura Odle Middle School Afghanistan Give Diplomacy a Chance Pavallan Mohan Inglemoor High School Returning Israel and Palestine Back on Track for Peace
Second Place Nathan McDermott Stevenson Elementary School Nuclear Weapons in Iran Sarah Williams Odle Middle School Clean Energy for a Better World Rima Kaboul Inglemoor High School Freedom from Genocide in the Darfur Region
Third Place Sam Nasralla Bryant Elementary School Putting Food in Your Car Won’t Get You Far Kristin Hirata Odle Middle School Making a Positive Impression on the World Leifur 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 Grade 6th-8th Grade 9th-12th Grade
First  Place Karthik Meiyappan Stevenson Elementary Ghandi, Savior of Harijans Adriana Cvitkovic The Northwest School Seeds of Compliance Angelia Tyler West Seattle High Taking Care of Our World 
Second Place Kathleen Zhu Stevenson Elementary Drilling Wells in Africa — Compassion in Action Corryn Wetzel Seattle Girls’ School A Humanitarian Act to Create Habitat David Hyde The Overlake School Teaching Compassion 
Third Place Sheuli Chowdhury Stevenson Elementary A Compassionate Hero: A Confluence of the Mind and Heart Krista Showalter Haller Middle School Seeds of Compassion Ilham AbdulrahmanSammamish High School Father of the Year