Peace-Building Essay Contest

Since 2015 the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has partnered with the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) on its annual National High School Essay Contest. The contest engages high school students in learning and writing about issues of peace and conflict, and encourages appreciation for diplomacy’s role in building partnerships that can advance peacebuilding and protect national security.

In a 1,000- to 1,250-word essay, students identify two cases—one they deem successful and one they deem unsuccessful—where the US pursued an integrated approach to build peace in a conflict-affected country. They should analyze and compare these two cases, addressing the following questions: (a) What relative strengths did members of the Foreign Service and military actors bring to the table? What peace-building tools were employed? Ultimately, what worked or did not work in each case? (b) How was each situation relevant to US national security interests? (c) What lessons may be drawn from these experiences for the pursuit of US foreign policy more broadly?

The winner of the contest will receive a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, to meet leadership at the US Department of State and USIP, and a full-tuition-paid voyage with Semester at Sea, a multi-country study abroad program, upon enrollment at an accredited university. The runner-up will receive a $1,250 cash prize and a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference. A freely downloadable Study Guide includes the essay questions, prizes, and rules for the contest; an introduction to foreign policy tools; key terms used in the field; examples of coordination in practice; and a list of other useful resources.

Deadline: March 15, 2019, for submission of essays

Competition Inspiring Creativity


vans art competition
Vans invites high school art students throughout the country to join in the eighth annual Vans Custom Culture art competition aimed at embracing youth creativity and supporting arts education. Teachers can register their students for the 2017 competition at the Vans Custom Culture website. Students will then be provided with four pairs of blank Vans shoes, which they will re-imagine to represent four themes of the Vans’ “Off the Wall” lifestyle: action sports, arts, music, and local flavor. Vans employees and an internal judging panel will assist in selecting the top 50 schools to be featured as semifinalists. Those 50 schools will then be posted online for a public vote from April 26 to May 10, 2017, to help determine the top five schools. The top five finalists will be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to showcase their designs to a panel of celebrity judges. The overall winner will earn $50,000 and sponsor-related prizes for additional funds toward their school’s arts program. The four schools that are runners-up will each be rewarded $4,000 for their participation.

Plus: This year Vans Custom Culture will introduce a new component to the competition—Customs. Schools will be given the additional challenge of creating a design or pattern to match the theme Technology in Design. Even though it will be part of the overall submission, Customs will be judged and prized separately from the grand prize of $50,000. Vans will award the winning school with $5,000 toward its art program and up to 25 pairs of shoes featuring the newly designed custom print. The winner will be announced on May 5, 2017, on the Vans Customs website.

Deadline to register: February 10, 2017, at 5 p.m. (PT), for entries