The American Foreign Service Association’s national high school essay contest completed its twenty-third year with over 400 submissions from 44 states. Three randomized rounds of judging produced this year’s winner, Justin Ahn, a junior from Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts. In his essay, “Mending Bridges: U.S.-Vietnam Reconciliation from 1995 to Today,” Ahn focuses on the successful reconciliation efforts by the Foreign Service in transforming U.S.-Vietnam relations from post-war tension to close economic and strategic partnership.
Ahn will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with a member of the Department of State’s leadership and receive a full tuition scholarship to an educational voyage with Semester at Sea.
Niccolo Duina was this year’s runner-up. He is currently a junior at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Duina will be attending the international diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership Conference this summer.
There were eight honorable mentions:
- Santiago Castro-Luna – Chevy Chase, Maryland
- Dante Chittenden – Grimes, Iowa
- Merle Hezel – Denver, Colorado
- Adarsh Khullar – Villa Hills, Kentucky
- Nicholas Nall – Little Rock, Arkansas
- Ashwin Telang – West Windsor, New Jersey
- Himani Yarlagadda – Northville, Michigan
- Sophia Zhang – San Jose, California
Congratulations! We thank all students and teachers who took the time to research and become globally engaged citizens who care about diplomacy, development and peacebuilding.
2023 National High School Essay Contest Topic
In 2024, the U.S. Foreign Service will celebrate its 100th birthday. The Foreign Service is an important element of the American approach to peacebuilding around the world. Over the last century, U.S. diplomats have been involved in some of the most significant events in history — making decisions on war and peace, responding to natural disasters and pandemics, facilitating major treaties, and more.
As AFSA looks back on their century-long history, we invite you to do the same. This year, students are asked to explore a topic that touches upon this important history and sheds light on how vital it is for America to have a robust professional corps focused on diplomacy, development and peace in the national interest.
In your essay, you will select a country or region in which the U.S. Foreign Service has been involved in at any point since 1924 and describe — in 1,500 words or less — how the Foreign Service was successful or unsuccessful in advancing American foreign policy goals, including promoting peace, in this country/region and propose ways in which it might continue to improve those goals in the coming years.
Contest deadline: April 3, 2023
Download the study guide for the 2023 National High School Essay Contest. This study guide provides students with a basic introduction to the topic and some additional context that can assist them in answering the question. It includes the essay question, prizes and rules for the contest; an introduction to diplomacy and peacebuilding; key terms; topics and areas students might explore; and a list of other useful resources.
Learn more about the contest rules and how to submit your essay on the American Foreign Service Association’s contest webpage.