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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. 


2023 Winner and Finalists

Congratulations to Lexi Serra from Northbrook, Illinois for being named the 2023 World Is a Classroom Essay Contest Winner.

Winner – Lexi Serra
Glenbrook North

SYF LexiSerra Headshot


Winning Essay

As I arrive in Florence Italy, in the summer of 2022 I stare at the magnificent Arno River—my grandfather’s favorite place in his home country. I reminisce on the stories I have heard of my family’s memories and life in Florence. The rustic streets are filled with shoppers who graze over the maroon-colored leather bags. I would love to stay and shop but the sun is setting over Ponte Vecchio and I know it’s time to head to my great aunt’s apartment for dinner. Walking up her stairs, I fear what awaits me through her doors. Will I get along with my Italian family? What if they judge me? I stop overthinking and open the door anyway, instantly I am hit with the smell of tomatoes roasting in the oven and see the handmade pasta boiling on the stove. I am greeted with love and hugs from family members I have never met before, and a smile sets on my face. My aunt rests her hands on my shoulders, looks me in the eyes, and says “My beautiful Lexi I have missed you”. In a country so far from home, I have never felt more at home and welcomed. The apartment is humid and barely has enough room for one, let alone eleven of us, but we manage to cram together at the table. My aunt carries over the mouthwatering home-cooked meal she prepared. As all eleven of us are enjoying the food we are laughing, smiling, and relishing in each other’s company, and these experiences are what make traveling so worthwhile. The memories and stories from the table are lifelong and full of beautiful souls who I learned so much from. Tears water through my eyes as gratitude fills my soul. Throughout the rest of my trip in Italy, I got to explore the breathtaking streets filled with gelaterias and hand-holding couples, learn the fascinating culture and history at the Uffizi, eat exquisite food that American dishes will never live up to, and meet new family members that I now have life long memories with. By spending two weeks in Italy, I have lasting feelings of contentment and curiosity, I was able to see and experience moments that taught me there is a whole world out there waiting for me to see. For the past 11 years, I have been learning through the traditional education system. High school has been hard for me, I had to experience and cope with COVID, was admitted to residential eating disorder treatment, and lost a lot of friends to the conformity of high school standards. Although I have learned so much throughout these years at school, nothing has opened and expanded my mind more than traveling. The lessons learned in school will never live up to the education provided by traveling, helping others, learning new cultures and ways of life, and experiencing the beauties of the world. Traveling has become a part of my life I cherish so deeply. The world has so much to offer, so much more to learn and explore and I hope to never stop making memories and experiencing life’s beauties.

Watch Lexi's Video


All winners and finalist's essays will be featured in Teach & Travel magazine.

Hannah Goodwin

SYF Hannah Headshot

Watch Hannah's Video

Kennedy Cordle

SYF Kennedy Headshot

Watch Kennedy's Video

Makenzie Crum

SYF Makenzie Headshot

Watch Makenzie's Video

Skye Fowler

SYF Skye

Watch Skye's Video



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 was open February 6 - April 28, 2023. The winning essays will be announced the week of July 24th.

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!

2022 Winner: Romal Mitr
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