Arlington students earn honors in Citizen Essay Contest

Haller Middle School seventh-grade students Matthew Taylor, left, and Zachary Cushman were honored in the 13th annual World Citizen Essay Contest. - Kirk Boxleitner
Haller Middle School seventh-grade students Matthew Taylor, left, and Zachary Cushman were honored in the 13th annual World Citizen Essay Contest.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — Two seventh-grade students at Haller Middle School recently won second and third place in their category for the 13th annual World Citizen Essay Contest.

The World Affairs Council of Seattle conducts the contest each year for Washington state students in grades 3-12, with the goal of promoting discussion among students, teachers, families and community members about the ways that individuals can effect positive change in the global community.

For the 60th anniversary of the World Affairs Council, it asked students to identify a Puget Sound-based innovation from the past 60 years that has left its mark around the world, and to explain how and why these innovations had an impact beyond the United States. These impacts could be related to the arts, sports, music, popular culture, technology, civic action, global health, education and manufacturing.

Haller Middle School seventh-grade students Zachary Cushman’s “Achievements in Ultra Rice” essay and Matthew Taylor’s “Sightlife” essay were among the essays that were judged based on the strength and merits of their arguments, as well as their organizational structure and attention to detail, including grammar, spelling and conventions. Students were encouraged to be creative in selecting their topics. Cushman won second place and Taylor won third place for the sixth- to eighth-grade category of the essay contest.

Both Cushman and Taylor admitted to being almost totally unfamiliar with their subjects before they started, but once they started researching malnutrition and blindness, the problems addressed by the innovations they chose to cover for their respective essays, they were struck by how widespread those problems are.

“I didn’t used to think about how hard it is to survive without proper nutrients,” said Cushman, who wrote about “Ultra Rice,” the creation of father-and-son team James and Duffy Cox of Bellingham, Wash., that contains micronutrients to offset malnutrition in infants and children. “It’s humbling to realize how much we have here, versus what other people in the world have. We shouldn’t be so wasteful of it.”

“I was surprised by how widespread blindness is in underdeveloped countries,” said Taylor, who wrote about SightLife, a Whatcom County nonprofit organization that has become one of the largest eye banks in the world to combat cornea blindness. “It’s pretty easy to support them. For only $120, you can cure someone’s blindness. That’s only the cost of a nice hotel room, but that’s a big chunk out of someone’s life.”

Patty Vaughn, Cushman and Taylor’s seventh-grade teacher, praised her two students for demonstrating their “integrity, insight and dedication” toward problems outside of their own lives through this essay contest.


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