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2021 John Sexton Essay Contest



James Traub (Chair)
Senior Fellow at NYU Center on International Cooperation; Columnist at

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Adem Carroll
United Nations & New York Program Director,
Burma Task Force


Jesse Corburn
Assistant Superintendent,
Uncommon Collegiate Charter
High School

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Chaumtoli Huq
Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Law@theMargins; Associate Professor of Law,
CUNY School of Law


Shakil Ahmed
Founder & CEO,
Princeton Alpha Management LP


Jatnna Ramirez
Director of High School Programs,
Global Kids


Sean Gavin
Uncommon Leadership
Charter High School

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Faisal Saeed Al Mutar
Founder & President of Ideas Beyond Borders;
Iraqi Refugee

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Sara Hossain
Human Rights Lawyer; 2016 International Woman of Courage Award


Kamal Ahmad,
Founder & President,
Asian University for Women


Ting Yu
Founder & Editor-in-chief,
Teach for America's One Day Magazine


William Wheelan
CEO & Founder, Sentia Education


Mohd Aminul Karim
Author of Genocide and Geopolitics of the Rohingya Crisis; Lt. Gen. (Ret.) of Bangladesh Army


Nandana Dev Sen
Author of Acrobat; International Actress


1st Place

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Fiona Neibart
Marymount School of New York,
11th Grade

2nd Place

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Eric Han
Stuyvesant High School,
12th Grade

3rd Place

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Yotam Peer
Metropolitan Expeditionary
Learning School,
10th Grade

Honorable Mentions:


Mahiul Bhuiyan
Bard High School Early College  Queens,
11th Grade

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Vincent Jiang
West Morris Central High School,
12th Grade

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Emily Hollander
Byram Hills High School,
11th Grade

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Zoe Lee
Branford High School,
12th Grade

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Madelyn Fried
River Dell High School,
10th Grade

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Aruna Das
Hunter College High School,
11th Grade

The John Sexton Scholars Program invited all currently enrolled New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut high school students to participate in the 2021 John Sexton Essay Contest. The competition challenged students to write an original and creative essay for the following prompt:

Identify and elaborate on one or more lessons that we have learned from historical genocides or mass persecutions. Can these lessons be applied to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis?

Rules & Rubric


All students must:

  • Currently be enrolled in a high school (grades 9-12)

  • Attend a school in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut

  • Not have previously won or received an honorable mention in the John Sexton Essay Contest

  • Not be related to any member of the John Sexton Scholars Program Team or current judge

Submission Guidelines

  • Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline has been extended to 11:59 pm EST on June 30, 2021.

  • Essays must be submitted to

  • Essays must include a cover sheet with the following information: (1) name (2) email address; (3) name of currently enrolled high school; (4) current grade level.

  • Essays must be submitted as a PDF document. 

  • Only one entry per student per year 

Essay Requirements


  • Essay must be no more than 500 words in length and double-spaced.

  • Essays must use at least three varied sources, such as newspaper articles, books, TED Talk videos, documentaries, and government websites.

  • Sources must be documented with in-text citations and a bibliography.


1st Place Winner: $1000 Visa gift card

2nd Place Winner: $300 Visa gift card

3rd Place Winner: $200 Visa gift card, a plaque from John Sexton at our event, and will have their essay posted on our website.

Six Honorable Mentions:  $50 Visa gift card each

All nine winners will be provided with a unique mentorship opportunity with NYU President Emeritus , John Sexton.

This includes:

  • Advice on college applications and personal statements

  • Discussions about college and career goals

  • General guidance as student navigate their university studies

In addition, all winners will receive:

  • SAT Tutoring from an elite test prep agency, Sentia Education

  • A personal Awards Ceremony for students and their families

  • A signed copy of John Sexton's book Standing for Reason

  • A plaque from John Sexton at our event

Awards are sponsored by Justice For All, Shafayet Patwari, and the John Sexton Scholars Program 

Winners will be announced and notified via email by August 15, 2021.

Past winners of the John Sexton Essay Contest have gone on to attend NYU, Harvard,

Syracuse, Yale, Cornell and many other prestigious  colleges and universities.

Judging Criteria

Content will count for 75% and the following parameters will be considered:

  1. Focus: Insightfully develops a thesis on the topic

  2. Supporting Evidence: Critical analysis of the question, well-researched, and convincing arguments with specific examples (Use evidence to supports your ideas; do not merely paraphrase sources).

  3. Source Material: Bibliography of three or more varied sources


Presentation will count for 25% and the following parameters will be considered:

  1. Quality of Writing: Clarity, flow, vocabulary, and style

  2. Organization: Well structured essay, including an introduction and conclusion

  3. Conventions: Spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation


We recommend that you peruse the following resources to best prepare for the contest: ​​


  • The Essay must be solely the work of the entrant. Plagiarism will result in disqualification. Essays must not infringe on any third-party rights or intellectual property of any person, company or organization.

  • The John Sexton Scholars Program reserves the right to print and display the essays and photographs of the contest winners.

  • Previous year winners are not eligible to compete in the contest.

  • All entries become the property of the John Sexton Scholars Program and will not be returned.

  • Decisions of the John Sexton Essay Contest Committee are final.

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