National High School Essay Contest

AFSA Announces the Winner of the 2021 High School Essay Contest

The American Foreign Service Association’s national high school essay contest completed its twenty-third year with nearly 357 submissions from 42 states.

Three randomized rounds of judging produced this year’s winner: Mariam Parray, a sophomore from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. In her essay, “Diplomats and Peacebuilders in Tunisia: Paving the Path to Democracy,” Ms. Parray focuses on how the Foreign Service partnered with other U.S. government agencies and NGOs to effect a peaceful democratic transition in Tunisia. She emphasizes the importance of multifaceted approaches as well as the importance of bringing marginalized groups into the fold. Mariam will travel to Washington to meet with a member of the Department of State’s leadership and will also gain a full tuition to an educational voyage with Semester at Sea.

Harrison McCarty was this year’s runner-up. Coincidentally, he is also a junior from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Harrison will be attending the international diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership Conference this summer.

There were eight honorable mentions:

  • Louisa Eaton – Wellesley, Massachusetts
  • Samuel Goldston – Brooklyn, New York
  • Lucy King – Bainbridge Island, Washington
  • Haan Jun Lee – Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Khaled Maalouf – Beirut, Lebanon
  • Madeleine Shaw – Bloomington, Indiana
  • Allison Srp – Austin, Minnesota
  • Daniel Zhang – Cortland, New York

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.

If you know a student who is not graduating high school this year, please encourage them to submit an essay for next year’s contest. The new prompt will be published in fall 2021. (Note that children of Foreign Service members are not eligible.)


AFSA collects your information for this contest and for AFSA partners. You may be signed up to receive updates or information from AFSA and our partners. You will receive confirmation from AFSA that your submission has been received and a notification if you are the winner or an honorable mention in June. You may also receive a message from our sponsor regarding their program offerings.


Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate if they are in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, or if they are U.S. citizens attending high school overseas. Students may be attending a public, private, or parochial school. Entries from home-schooled students are also accepted. Previous first-place winners and immediate relatives of directors or staff of the AFSA and Semester at Sea are not eligible to participate. Previous honorable mention recipients are eligible to enter. $2,500 to the writer of the winning essay, in addition to an all-expense paid trip to the nation’s capital from anywhere in the U.S. for the winner and his or her parents, and an all-expense paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea. Note: Due to COVID-19, not all prizes may be immediately claimable.

The winner's school also receives a donation of 10 copies of AFSA's Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work


The Fund for American Diplomacy is AFSA's 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports AFSA’s outreach goals. AFSA National High School Essay contest is AFSA’s main outreach initiative to high school students. We appreciate your willingness to contribute. Rest assured that your contribution will be put to good use. Donations to the FAD are fully tax deductible.