The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) is committed to educating the next generation of peacebuilders about the U.S. role in preventing and resolving conflicts around the world, and about the important part that young people can play as engaged global citizens.

Starting in 1987, USIP challenged students to think critically about global issues of conflict and peace through the National Peace Essay Contest (NPEC). Now, USIP is building upon the legacy of the NPEC (which was wrapped up in 2014) by partnering with other organizations on a range of initiatives that inspire students to learn more about global peacebuilding and to put their own good ideas into action.

Make sure to explore our other resources for students, teachers, and the broader public by visiting the Public Education section. 

Wilson King Photo
Pictured left to right, Dr. Gary Ransdell, Wilson King, Deputy Sec. John Sullivan, Amb. Eric Rubin, Amb. George Moose (US Department of State)

Academic WorldQuest

Each year, the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA) engages more than 4,000 high school students across the U.S. in its signature quiz contest that tests their knowledge of global issues and foreign policy in 10 categories. Since 2016, USIP has been a co-sponsor of this national contest, ensuring the inclusion of a peace and conflict category in Academic WorldQuest each year.

For the 2020 competition, USIP’s category focused on preventing extremism in fragile states. A curated list of resources from which the questions were pulled provided a snapshot of the latest approaches to addressing the threat of extremism in fragile states; introduced some tools used to bridge divides and prevent violence in conflict zones; and highlighted examples of people, organizations, and communities that are making peace possible. For more information, check out our Academic WorldQuest page! 

National High School Essay Contest

As a successor to USIP’s own National Peace Essay Contest, USIP has since 2015 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. 

The winner of the contest receives a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to meet leadership at the U.S. Department of State and USIP, and a full-tuition paid voyage with Semester at Sea upon the student’s enrollment at an accredited university. The runner-up receives a $1,250 cash prize and a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference. 

Explore the 2021 essay contest topic, “Diplomats and Peacebuilders: Powerful Partners,” download this year’s contest study guide, and learn more about the essay contest here.

National History Day

Each year, 500,000 thousand students representing every state in the U.S. engage in original research about a specific theme in history through National History Day (NHD). Since 2016, USIP has sponsored a special award at the national level as part of NHD. The Global Peace Prize is awarded annually to the top middle and high school entries that demonstrate America’s commitment to peace, including the role that individuals, organizations and/or the U.S. government have played in advancing the cause of global peace.” Students can present their research through essays, exhibits, documentaries, performances, and websites. 

With the theme “Conflict and Compromise in History,” the work of peacebuilders was highlighted across many of the projects for the 2018 competition.  The junior division Global Peace Prize was won by Alan Zhou and Kyler Wang from Stoller Middle School in Oregon. Their documentary, “The Pig War: Confrontation, Escalation, Arbitration,” highlighted the important role that international arbitration played in resolving a territorial dispute between the U.S. and Great Britain without resorting to war. In the senior division, the winner was a website created by Forest Hill Eastern High School students Claire Parish and Kyle Korte. They highlighted the evolution in the views of Senator Arthur Vandenberg from isolationism to multilateralism, and the policy consequences as he sought to promote and protect U.S. interests. 

Learn more about USIP and the Global Peace Prize, including articles written for the annual NHD Theme Book.

National Peace Essay Contest

For 27 years, the National Peace Essay Contest promoted serious discussion among high school students, teachers, and national leaders about international peace and conflict resolution today and in the future. 

Archived information on the contests is available:

Past NPEC national and state winners should submit scholarship requests to essaycontest@usip.org.