Wilde Lake High School's soon-to-be senior Shirin Sinnar has earned a $10,000 college scholarship from the United States Institute of Peace for her winning essay on America's foreign policy role in the new world order.
Shirin, 16, a Hickory Ridge village resident, emphasized in her 1,500-word essay that the United States should "chart a middle course" in its global relations, continuing to promote democracy, freedom and free-market economies but scaling back initiatives to "dominate" as a superpower.
"Limitations on our power preclude our acting as master or caretaker of the world," Shirin wrote. "Thus, along with U.S. leadership we must stress world cooperation. . . . Our role must neither be to isolate ourselves nor to reach beyond our limits.
". . .The question lies not in whether America should actively promote democracy and free markets, but in how."
The Institute of Peace selected Shirin's essay as the national winner from among more than 7,000 that were entered in contests in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and six overseas American high schools.
"We looked for quality of research and analysis, and form and style," says Wilson Grabill, public affairs officer with the Institute of Peace.
Shirin received the award at a June 24 banquet during a one-week Institute of Peace program in Washington for state-level winners that focused on peace and conflict resolution in Latin America.
One of the most exciting aspects of the week in Washington was meeting students and diplomats from different backgrounds, Shirin says. The state winners met with U.S. government and foreign embassy officials, members of Congress and Latin American affairs specialists. The students assumed roles of Organization of American States officials and other diplomatic positions in a three-day simulation of a summit to bring peace and democracy to Haiti.
"It was inspiring to meet people who care a lot about foreign policy," Shirin says. "There was a lot of exposure to different ideas and perspectives."
The institute is an independent federal organization created and financed by Congress that promotes education and research on international peace and conflict resolution.
Shirin spent three to four weeks researching the essay by reading journals such as Foreign Affairs and Department of State Bulletin, and wrote and revised it in about one week.
Shirin, who will serve for the second year as editor of Wilde Lake High's student newspaper, Paw Print, says she enjoys the research and interviewing involved in analytical writing.
Maryann West, chairwoman of Wilde Lake High's English department, describes Shirin as a "teacher's delight." Ms. West has worked with Shirin on Student Government Association projects and coordinated the Institute of Peace essay contest for the school.
"She's very bright and has a very inquiring, sharp mind," Ms. West says. "She's analytical, but she tempers that with a very warm and caring spirit.
"She has a mental courage beyond her years. She's not afraid to accept and try other ideas. She brings those attitudes to everything she does."
Shirin says she entered the contest because the topic was "stimulating to explore." She laments that the public school system doesn't focus enough on current international events in its curriculum, and that many students seem to lack interest in world affairs.
"That's something that really bothers me," she says. "It's not that they don't know. They're very bright people. But there's a general apathy. I don't think a lot of high school students care enough about what's going on in the world."