Nicholas Deparle, winner of the 2017 AFSA National High School Essay Contest, comes from Sidwell Friends School in Washington DC. A rising senior at the time, Mr. Deparle covers the Internally Displaced Persons crisis in Iraq and potential ideas to help resolve the issue. Read his winning essay here. Mr. Manuel Feigl, a graduate of Brashier Middle College Charter High School in Simpsonville, SC took second place.
This year there were twenty honorable mentions: Mohammed Abuelem ( Little Rock, Ark.), Lucas Aguayo-Garber (Worcester, Mass.), Rahul Ajmera (East Williston, N.Y.), Taylor Gregory (Lolo, Mont.), Rachel Hildebrand (Sunnyvale, Calif.), Ryan Hulbert (Midland Park, N.J.), India Kirssin (Mason, Ohio), Vaibhav Mangipudy (Plainsboro, N.J.), William Marsh (Pittsburgh, Penn.), Zahra Nasser (Chicago, Ill.), Elizabeth Nemec (Milford, N.J.), David Oks (Ardsley, N.Y.), Max Pumilia (Greenwood Village, Colo.), Nikhil Ramaswamy (Plano, Texas), Aditya Sivakumar (Beaverton, Ore.), Donovan Stuard (Bethlehem, Penn.), Rachel Tanczos (Danielsville, Penn.), Isabel Ting (San Ramon, Calif.), Kimberley Tran (Clayton, Mo.), and Chenwei Wang (Walnut, Calif.).
2017 Essay Contest Topic
According to the United Nations, 65 million people worldwide have left their homes to seek safety elsewhere due to violence, conflict, persecution, or human rights violations. The majority of these people are refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Imagine you are a member of the U.S. Foreign Service —– a diplomat working to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the United States abroad – and are now assigned to the U.S. embassy in one of these four countries.
(Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs)
(Bureau of African Affairs)
(Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs)
(Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs)
Your task is to provide recommendations to address the refugee/IDP crisis facing the country in which you are now posted. Using the resources available to you as a member of the Foreign Service, write a memo to your Ambassador outlining how the United States might help address the current unprecedented levels of displacement. You may choose to address issues related to the causes of refugee crisis, or to focus on the humanitarian crisis in your host country.
A qualifying memo will be 1,000-1,250 words and will answer the following questions:
- How does the crisis challenge U.S. interests in the country you are posted and more broadly?
- Specifically outline the steps you propose the U.S. should take to tackle the roots or the consequences of the crisis, and explain how it would help solve the issue or issues you are examining. How will your efforts help build peace or enhance stability?
- How do you propose, from your embassy/post of assignment, to foster U.S. government interagency cooperation and cooperation with the host-country government to address these issues? Among U.S. government agencies, consider U.S. Agency for International Development, the Foreign Commercial Service and the U.S. Institute of Peace.
TO: Ambassador ______________________
FROM: Only use your first name here
RE: Think of this as your title, make sure to include the country you are writing about
Here you want to lay out the problem, define criteria by which you will be deciding the best steps the U.S. could take, and include a short sentence or two on your final recommendation. Embassy leadership is very busy and reads many memos a day —– they should be able to get the general ““gist”” of your ideas by reading this section.
This section should provide any background information about the crisis or conflict relevant to your proposed policy. Here, you should mention why the issue is important to U.S. interests, especially peace and security.
This is where you outline your proposed policy. Be specific in describing how the U.S. might address this issue and how these steps can contribute to peace and security. Include which organizations you propose partnering with and why.
This is where you write your final recommendations for embassy leadership. Think of this as a closing paragraph.
Companion Guide for the 2017 National High School Essay Contest
It is no easy task to jump into the role of a diplomat, especially when confronted by such an urgent crisis. USIP, in consultation with AFSA, developed a guide to provide a basic introduction to the topic and some additional context that can assist you in answering the question, while still challenging you to develop your own unique response. As such, this guide should be used as a starting point to your own research and as you ultimately prepare a compelling memo outlining recommendations the U.S. government should follow to respond to the refugee and IDP crisis.
In the guide you will find: insights into the role of the Foreign Service; country, organization, and key-term briefs to provide a foundational understanding; and a list of other useful resources. Download the Companion Guide for the 2017 National High School Essay Contest (.pdf).