2021 USAID YouthLead #Reaching16 Essay Contest For Young Changemakers

2021 USAID YouthLead #Reaching16 Essay Contest For Young Changemakers

Young changemakers all around the world can now participate in the “YouthLead #Reaching16 Essay Contest” and join others in advocating for peace, justice, and strong institutions!

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“Reaching 16” refers to Goal 16 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that aims to promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies. It also serves as a reference and commitment to ensuring youth reach the age of 16 and beyond by stabilizing communities. 

As a young changemaker, our #Reaching16 Essay Contest provides you with a unique platform to share your personal experience and creative voice with the world!

About Reaching16 Essay Contest

In your personal essay (800 words maximum) answer the following question: What are you or someone you know doing to ensure your community is #Reaching16 with peace, justice, and strong institutions? A great personal essay captivates readers by sharing the author’s authentic voice. It takes the reader inside the writer’s experience through descriptive words and examples as well as gives insight into the author’s passion and inspirations for being involved in peace, justice and building strong institutions. 

Format and Length: Each submission must have a title and cannot be longer than 800 words. While it is not mandatory, we highly encourage you to upload a photograph of yourself or the work being done in your community.

Language: Essays can be written in English, Spanish, or French. No other languages aside these three will be accepted.

Requirement for Reaching16 Essay Contest

The competition is open to all members of the public who are:

  • Citizens of low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) as listed here;
  • Aged 18-35 and;
  • Members of YouthLead with a member profile that is at least 80 percent complete. 

Becoming a member of YouthLead is easy and free. All Entrants must be successfully registered on YouthLead. As registration may take several days to process, all YouthLead.org registration requests must be submitted at least four business days prior to the end of the Entry Period to ensure timely approval for entering the contest. 

Create your profile in English here or in Spanish here. (Please note: While we allow submission of personal essays in French, we do not have a separate French registration or submission page).

Note: USAID staff and employees of YouthPower2: Learning and Evaluation Sponsors, and YouthPower2: Learning and Evaluation’s prime- and subcontractors are not eligible to enter or win. Current YouthLead Ambassadors or YouthLead Ambassador Advisors are also not eligible to enter or win.

Judging Criteria

The Selection Committee will evaluate the personal essays based on the following criteria (“Judging Criteria”):

  • Voice and Power
  • Experience and Engagement
  • Inspiration
  • Impact

Voice and Power (30 percent)

  • Voice: Does the writer’s “voice” come through in the essay? Does the reader have a better understanding of who the writer is as a person?
  • Power: Is the writing expressive? For example, does the writing capture emotion(s)?

Experience and Engagement (20 percent) – Does the essay help the reader to better understand or connect with the writers’ experience? Does it keep the reader engaged or wanting to find out more?

Inspiration (25 percent) – Does the essay inspire the reader to want to learn more or take action?

Impact (25 percent) – Does the essay capture the impactful work being done in the writer’s community?

The 16 winning submissions will be published at YouthLead.org and promoted via our YouthLead social media channels and newsletter.


The Sponsor of the YouthLead #Reaching16 Essay Contest (“Contest”) is YouthPower2: Learning and Evaluation, a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Making Cents International.

Entry Period

The YouthLead #Reaching16 Essay Contest begins on Monday, December 7, 2020 and ends January 15, 2021 at 6 P.M., Eastern Standard Time (the “Entry Period”). Submissions must be made online. No mailed or emailed entries (electronic or hard copy) will be accepted.

Requirements of Reaching16 Essay Contest

1. All written submissions must be the original work of the Entrant (that is, written by the Entrant her/himself). 

2. All entries must be submitted here. (Submissions in French or Spanish will also use the same link as the English submissions. You can use “Select Language” in the upper right-hand corner on your screen to translate the submission page to French or Spanish). 

3. By entering the YouthLead #Reaching16 Essay Contest, Entrants agree and acknowledge that Making Cents International, the implementer of YouthPower2: Learning and Evaluation (YP2LE), is permitted to receive and review the Entrant’s registration data. All personal information will be used by YP2LE in accordance with the Privacy Policy on YouthLead.org and the YouthLead #Reaching16 Essay Contest rules.

4. Written pieces must have been developed between December 7, 2020 and the Contest deadline of January 15, 2021. Entries that have been published on other platforms or prior publications will not be considered.  

Other essay contests

How to Apply for Reaching16 Essay Contest

Step 1:  Register on YouthLead (go to Step 2 if you are already a member!)

All applicants must be registered on YouthLead.org before you can submit your contest application. YouthLead.org registration requests must be submitted at least two business days (January 13, 2021) prior to the end of the Entry Period to ensure timely approval for entering the contest. Create your profile in English here or in Spanish here

Step 2: Log into YouthLead

Participating is easy! Go to the “Events” page, and click on “Announcing the YouthLead #Reaching16 Essay Contest” to begin your contest submission. (Submit here in English, Spanish or French). Entrants may submit a maximum of one entry (either one personal essay). 

Step 3:  Enter Your Text

Either type the text in the respective submission field or copy and paste the text. You can use bolding, italics, and underlining to format your text. Please note that the maximum word count is 800 words.

Step 4: Select the Language in which You Submit your Entry

Select either English, French or Spanish. No other languages will be accepted.

Step 5:  Accept the Terms and Conditions and Hit Submit.


DEADLINE: 13th January 2021 [See all deadlines]

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Selection Process

1. Entries that do not meet the submission criteria for the contest and/or written formats will be excluded.

2. Decisions of the Judging Panel are final and are not subject to appeal.

3. This is a skills-based contest and chance plays no part in the determination of the winners. 

Third-Party Releases

1. If the written submission contains any material or elements that are not owned by the Entrant and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the written submission, the Entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission, any and all releases and consents necessary. If any person appearing as a subject in any written submission is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the Entrant is responsible for getting the approval, on each release, of a parent or legal guardian.

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