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World Is A Classroom Essay Contest

The World is a Classroom Essay contest was established to provide 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 2023 application period is now closed. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any inquiries. 


2022 Winner and Finalists

Congratulations to Romal Mitr, Quarry Lane School, California for being named the 2022 World Is a Classroom Essay Contest Winner.

Winner – Romal Mitr
Quarry Lane School

SYF WorldClassroom RomalMitr


Winning Essay

Hopping off the Inca Rail and leaping onto the cracked platform, the sun’s harsh rays mercilessly pierced my innocent eyes. I was suddenly smothered by a heavy blanket of pure heat that weighed me down like a lead anchor. After a mere five minutes, beads of sweat slowly trickled down my flushed face as I reached into my faded Adidas backpack to grab my camouflaged-themed water bottle. Gulping down the tepid water, I felt like a seasoned archeologist running my palm across the sacred Intihuatana stone, my fingertips tingling with the excitement of unveiling the rich pre-Columbian history that for centuries had been shrouded in mystery.  Pulling up the hem of my shirt to wipe away my perspiration, I looked down to see tiny, brown alpaca slippers skipping towards my mud-caked sneakers. Shifting my gaze upward, I was greeted by the fiercely curious, dark chocolatey eyes of a young Peruvian girl. As the corners of my mouth turned up into a friendly smile, she abruptly spun around and retraced her steps back towards a communal tribal hut with a straw-thatched roof that delicately balanced atop yellowing adobe bricks. Observing the long procession of tourists hustling by these huts without a second glance, I couldn’t help but notice the strange paradox: these tourists wanted an immersion into Machu Picchu’s ancient culture yet didn’t take the time to interact with the powerful force driving that history, the native Peruvian families. Shadowing the enigmatic Peruvian girl, I leaned into the hut’s wooden doorframe and located the girl crouched on a low stool fashioned out of dried bamboo shoots. She vigorously tapped her grandmother’s arm and whispered a phrase in the local Quechua dialect. Her grandmother, with her silky, milk-white hair drawn back into a tight bun, glanced up from her sewing to gesture me inside. Not wanting to impose, I assumed a crisscross-applesauce position on the uneven, grass-carpeted floor. For a few moments, a deafening silence engulfed the room as I marveled at the woman’s leathery hand move swiftly through the kaleidoscopic fabric with her rusted needle as she sewed on the final stitches. Tugging at her grandmother’s sleeve, the little girl grabbed the knitted masterpiece and carefully dropped the hand-made, artisanal Peruvian knapsack into my lap, rendering me speechless. As I replayed this moment in my head while the Inca Rail departed from the world heritage site, I realized that the only way to truly understand the history of a place is to interact with its remarkable people and forge life-long connections. Fingering every tiny stitch of the alpaca-wool knapsack, I resolved to search for the authentic story behind everything, no longer confined to the mass-manufactured products of first-world countries that often lack real meaning. Each piece of string is unique to my treasured Peruvian possession, deliberately woven with meaning, intention and love. Through one short visit, I came to the profound understanding that the beauty of life can be witnessed by simply listening, observing, and admiring people for their rich diversity and background. I will use traveling as a method of appreciating the world, viewing compassion and acceptance as presents that should be eternally regifted.

Watch Romal's Video


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

Kailash Letman- Kauai High School

SYF WorldClassroom Student1

Watch Kailash's Video

Milan Ndjiki - Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering

SYF WorldClassroom Student2

Watch Milan's Video

Lindsay McBride - Academy of Notre Dame

SYF WorldClassroom LindsayMcBride

Watch Lindsay's Video

Asher Boiskin - Cherry Hill High School East

SYF WorldClassroom Asher

Watch Asher's Video


The finalist for the 2022 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.

Screen Shot 2022 08 03 at 12.00.52 PM

The World Is a Classroom Essay Contest Rules:

A $1,500.00 USD scholarship 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 2023 application period will open February 6 - April 28, 2023. The winning essays will be announced the week of June 26th.

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!

2021 Winner: Samira Cisneros
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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