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.

2017 AFSA Winner Nicholas Deparle
AFSA President Barbara Stephenson, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, 2017 National High School Essay Contest Winner Nicholas DeParle, and USIP President Nancy Lindborg. Courtesy of U.S. Department of State/ Mark Stewart

Starting in 1987, USIP challenged students to think critically about global issues of conflict and peace through the National Peace Essay Contest (NPEC). USIP then expanded its work with young people in more recent years with the creation of the Public Education Department in 2011. Now, USIP is building upon the legacy of the NPEC (which was wrapped up in 2014) and expanding the ongoing work of the Public Education Department by partnering with other organizations on some new initiatives for students: 

Academic WorldQuest

Each year, the World Affairs Council of America (WACA) engages more than 4,000 high school students across the U.S. in quiz contests that test their knowledge of global issues and foreign policy in 10 categories. USIP is pleased to collaborate again this year with WACA on a peace and conflict strand to Academic WorldQuest 2018 and hosting the national competition reception on April 27, 2018. Check out the resources for the “The Peacebuilding Toolkit” category!

National High School Essay Contest

USIP is proud to partner with the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) on the annual National High School Essay Contest for 2017-2018. The contest engages high school students each year in learning and writing about issues of peace and conflict, encouraging appreciation for diplomacy’s role in building partnerships that can advance peacebuilding and protect national security. The winner of the contest will receive a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to meet U.S. Department of State and USIP leadership, and a full-tuition paid voyage with Semester at Sea upon the student’s 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. The deadline for the contest was March 15, 2018; please stay tuned to learn about the winner! Learn more about the question and contest rules.

AFSA National High School Essay Contest Past Winners

National History Day

The U.S. Institute of Peace is proud to sponsor a Special Prize at the national level as part of National History Day. 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, this year using the theme “Conflict and Compromise in History.” Students can present their research in many different ways – through essays, exhibits, documentaries, performances, and websites. Learn more about NHD, the Global Peace Prize and the 2018 theme!

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