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World Is A Classroom Essay Contest

The World is a Classroom Essay contest was established to provide middle school and high school students the opportunity to share their personal story of how travel has impacted their lives. The World is a Classroom Essay and Scholarship was created in recognition of Ripley Hunter, Founder and Chair of the SYTA Youth Foundation and long standing member of the SYTA Board of Directors for his commitment and dedication to changing young lives through travel.

Students who write an essay describing what they learned and how they were impacted by travel could earn a scholarship of up to $1,500.00 USD! The other top four essay entries will also receive a cash scholarship of $1,000.00 USD! The SYTA Youth Foundation offers scholarships to students who use their creativity to compose an article or speech that illustrates a student travel experience.

If you have any questions, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


The 2022 application period was February 7 - April 29, 2022 


2021 Winner and Finalists

Congratulations to Samira Cisneros, ISM International Academy, Ecuador for being named the 2021 World Is a Classroom Essay Contest Winner.

Winner – Samira Cisneros
ISM International Academey


Winning Essay

Chichén Itzá: the classroom where I learned to learn

I love to learn; I firmly believe that constant learning is key to everything in life. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago –four years to be precise– that I realized there are multiple ways to learn. I was fourteen and, having spent eleven years inside the traditional education system, I hadn’t opened my mind to the way real-life experiences could bring valuable teachings to my life. I was completely centered on academics and grades, as if they determined everything when it comes to learning.

Many clear memories come to my head when I think about the classes I received back then; sitting on a desk for many hours a day, mostly listening in silence. That morning was a regular morning but I heard something that would remain in my thoughts to this day: “If you ever visit Chichén Itzá, bring me a souvenir”, said my history teacher, joking. She had just finished explaining the marvels of the Mayan culture and the influence it had from many others from the same region.

Heat on my skin. My lungs breathing in the fresh air. My eyes looking at a beautiful, blue, clear sky. The Chichén Itzá ruins dominating the view. There was nothing quite like it, I couldn’t have ever imagined that I would witness history with my five senses, in person. Some things can’t be learned by reading a textbook, and what I learned through this breathtaking experience was one of them. I wasn’t sitting; I was walking around culture itself!

As I talked to the tourist guide, I rediscovered the importance of human interaction in learning as the social beings we are. If I hadn’t been there, having a conversation with him, I wouldn’t have learned that his ancestors were Mayan and that his family only spoke their native language. His culture was fascinating, but it was sad to hear that Mayan is almost a dead language that youth are learning less and less.

I was able to understand the meaning of some words of this ancient language; understand a bit more about how society develops; about the struggles to keep tradition; about how cultures are always interconnected. I returned having acquired invaluable knowledge that went beyond the facts that I had simply memorized before. Back home, I was able to point out the similarities between what I had learned and the context of the Ecuadorian indigenous cultures; my thoughts were enriched.

A relatively short interaction and a one-day experience in Mexico is all it took to make my knowledge from a class at school more significant and long-lasting. Travelling gives you this opportunity, in which every experience can become an outstanding memory, a turning point in life, and change your mentality. Travelling is much more than a steady classroom and a graded test; it helps you learn by feeling, by interacting with diverse and unique people. Travelling truly makes the world your classroom.

I returned home wanting to visit many places; wanting to learn; wanting to experience; with so much illusion and, of course, a souvenir for my history teacher.



All winners and finalist's essays are featured in Teach & Travel magazine. Click the finalist's names to read their award-winning essays.

Tracy Gong- Highland Park High School
Kenzy Elshazly - Columbia Secondary School
Fiona Faccilonga - Carmel High School
Audrey He - Jasper High School


The finalist for the 2021 World is a Classroom Essay Contest learned the results of the contest via a Facebook LIVE discussion. Click the image below to watch the announcement and discussion.


The World Is a Classroom Essay Contest Rules:

A $1,500.00 USD scholarship and a commemorative plaque will be awarded to the author of the winning essay. The winner may be asked to share their essay in person or via video at a SYTA Youth Foundation virtual or in person event. Essays in 2nd through 5th place will also receive a $1,000 USD scholarship. The prize winning essays will be featured in the Teach & Travel magazine.  

A panel will judge the entries based on the criteria of legibility, sincerity, creativity, and content.

How to Enter
Any student who is currently enrolled in a secondary public or private academic institution (grades 9-12) may submit an entry through the online form below. Article length should not exceed 525 words. You can not begin an online application, save changes, and return later to complete it. Changes will not be saved to an application. Once submitted, an application cannot be changed. If you need to make changes to your submitted application you will need to notify This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Official Rules
No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win this contest. Only one entry is allowed per person.

Multiple entries will not be accepted, and could result in disqualification. Employees of SYTA, SYTA member companies, immediate family members, business partners, contest sponsors and contest judges are not eligible and may not participate in this contest as an entrant. Entries must be received by the deadline. Income and other taxes, if any, are the sole responsibility of the contest winners. This contest is subject to all federal, state, and local laws. Void where restricted or prohibited. All entries become the property of SYF and will not be acknowledged or returned. SYF reserves all publication rights thereof. Acceptance of prize constitutes consent to use winners’ names for editorial or publicity purposes without further compensation, except where restricted or prohibited. The winner may be required to sign an affidavit of eligibility and liability release, which must be returned within 21 days or an alternate winner, may be chosen. SYTA & SYF reserves the right to edit submitted content to align with our editorial standards. 

The 2022 application period will open February 7 - April 29, 2022. The winning essays will be announced the week of June 13th.

For Questions, please feel free to contact us! 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Watch videos
from past recipients and read their winning submissions below!

2020 Winner: Micah Hill
2019 Winner: Andrew Lisa
2018 Winner: Jennifer Xiong
2017 Winner: Adrienne Porter
2016 Winner: Sophia Debruin
2015 Winner: Lauren Chung
2014 Winner: Jackson Sales
2013 Winner: Sibina Mehdi


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