The Future is Bright

Two winners selected for high school student essay contest on genocide prevention

TORONTO—The Zoryan Institute and the editors of Genocide Studies International (GSI) have selected two winners of its inaugural High School Student Essay Contest focused on the prevention of genocide. First place was awarded to Arlington High School grade 10 student Soline Fisher, and second place was awarded to grade 11 student Zepure Merdinian of Belmont High School. 

The essay contest, which provided an opportunity for students to make their voices heard and contribute to the ongoing work of preventing genocide, had three prompts for students to address and develop their own original arguments:

  1. How will you lead your generation in preventing genocide?
  2. What obligation does the global community have to prevent genocide, and what form(s) should these prevention efforts take?
  3. How should your nation respond to genocide that takes place in another nation?

The essay contest was open to high school level students worldwide, and while we received many quality submissions, the two winning essays were selected for their academic rigor, personal narrative and persuasive argument addressing their selected prompt.

Soline’s essay explored the contemporary challenges faced by the global community in tackling genocide and proposed three concrete steps to help prevent genocide and future atrocities.  Zepure’s essay titled, “Quality Genocide Education in American Schools: An Armenian Lens for Hope” took on a personal approach, exploring how her own experiences with genocide and genocide education will help her to lead her generation in preventing genocide.

Both submissions left the editors of Genocide Studies International and the Zoryan Institute hopeful for the future generations who will help lead the way in promoting human rights, equity, tolerance, peace and reconciliation. 

“It was a privilege to read all of the outstanding contributions to this first student essay contest! The pieces submitted by Soline and Zepure are thoughtful, engaging, well-crafted – and very different from one another. When taken on their own, they are excellent; when taken together, they point to a brighter future,” commented co-editor of GSI Dr. Jennifer Rich.

When asked to comment on the significance of this contest, Soline spoke to the importance of genocide prevention for today’s youth: “It is so important that young people be made aware of pressing international developments and grasp the complexity of the issues involved so as to be able to take an informed position on those issues. While some scholars are bent on reassuring us that the world we live in is less violent than at any time in the past, this argument to me underestimates the latent potential for violence on a large scale enabled by extremist politics and advanced technology. Therefore, we must remain vigilant for the prospects of the emergence of new forms of genocide. I hope that my essay makes some small contribution to this understanding.”

In her comments, second place winner Zepure highlighted the importance of genocide education: “I hope my essay shows the extent to which genocide education varies in quality and inspires educators worldwide to improve their teaching approaches when it comes to heavy topics such as genocide.”

As first place winner, Soline will receive a cash prize of $250 USD, and both Soline and Zepure will have their essays published in issue 15.2 of Genocide Studies International. Soline and Zepure were both presented certificates from the Zoryan Institute from their respective schools. 

The 2024 High School Student Essay Contest is now open for submissions. As we embark on this new academic school year, we encourage high schools, educators and teachers around the world to share this opportunity with their students and peers, and even incorporate it into their 2023-2024 curriculum. The deadline to submit is June 2024.

Zoryan Institute
Zoryan Institute and its subsidiary, the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, is a non-profit organization that serves the cause of scholarship and public awareness relating to issues of universal human rights, genocide, and diaspora-homeland relations. This is done through the systematic continued efforts of scholars and specialists using a comparative and multidisciplinary approach and in accordance with the highest academic standards.

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