Alisa Partlan
Alisa Partlan, 16, was the Arizona state winner in the 2011 Annual National Peace Essay Contest. Submitted photo

At just 16 years old, Alisa Partlan already has a good grip on what is going on in some of the infamously corrupt areas in the world.

Partlan recent wrote an essay, called "For the Love of Power: Overcoming Tyranny by Building Peace and Accountability from the Bottom Up," for the 2011 National Peace Essay Contest. Her work was named best in Arizona and she is now in contention for the national award against 44 other students.

The prompt asked students to look at two countries that have been affected by corruption. Partlan, who is graduating from Desert Vista High School next week, chose the countries of Zimbabwe and Sierra Lione.

"A lot of (the corruption) is based on Mugabe's rule there for several decades," Partlan said. "He has refused to give up any sort of power. Also his use of intimidation - having people attacked who he believes are his opposition."

For her essay, Partlan was awarded a $1,000 scholarship and a chance to participate in a workshop in Washington, D.C., with the rest of the state winners. At the end of the week, a national winner will be chosen and granted a $10,000 scholarship.

Partlan will be attending Brandeis University in the fall and looks to pursue a degree that will allow her to work with non-profit organizations.

"I have always been very passionate about human rights and peace," she said. "I think participating in this contest has given me a much more detailed understanding of how some areas of the world work."

In her essay, Partlan examined the history of the two countries, looked at what efforts were made from outside sources and gave recommendations for third parties to help out the people in need.

"There are outside countries trying to solve these problems but not necessarily in the right way," she said. "They are in the process of making changes, but there is still a long way to go."

This was the 24th annual National Peace Essay Contest, sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). The governmental organization was created by an act of Congress in 1984.

For this year's contest, a spokesperson said they received more than 1,000 essays from students. Each essay goes through different stages of judging before a winner is selected.

"Everyone who has been reading the essays this year has been blown away," said Allison Sturma, press secretary for USIP. "All of the questions reflect things that we do in conflict areas around the world. We are able to reach out to students and teachers to get them involved in discussion."

To find out more about the contest, visit the USIP website at

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