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Last Thursday night, during the culminating event of a week in Washington for 49 high school students from around the country, three students were announced as the national, first and second prize winners of the National Peace Essay Contest run by the United States Institute of Peace.

(Washington) – Last Thursday night, during the culminating event of a week in Washington for 49 high school students from around the country, three students were announced as the national, first and second prize winners of the National Peace Essay Contest run by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). The top three winners, whose essays were the best of all of the state winners, are Margaret Hardy of California,  who won the top national prize of $10,000; Sara Luecke of Pennsylvania whose first-prize essay won her $5,000; and Bryce Sapp of Wyoming  who won second prize overall and $2,500 in scholarship money.

All state winners won $1,000 and an all-expenses paid five-day trip to Washington, D.C. in which the students participated in a conflict resolution simulation, met with experts in government and nongovernment organizations and visited national monuments and museums. This is the 23rd  year of the National Peace Essay Contest. Each year’s essay topic changes and this year’s was “the effectiveness of nonviolent civic action.”

Pamela Aall, vice president of USIP’s Education and Training Center/Domestic, said, “Every year, the students who enter USIP’s National Peace Essay Contest impress us with their levels of awareness and engagement of international conflict issues. Our hope is that winning this contest and coming to Washington, D.C. inspires them to continue to be peacebuilders as it does us.”

Over the 23 years of the contest, over 1,350 students have won the National Peace Essay Contest, which is open to American high school students living in the U.S. and abroad. The contest is designed to engage high school students in peacebuilding issues and activities while helping them increase their research and writing skills. Teachers are offered a curriculum guide to help students prepare their essays. Next year’s contest topic is “governance, corruption and conflict;” essays are due on February 1, 2011.

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