Justin Hunsaker graduated from Skyline High School in May, but senioritis doesn’t appear to have been on his to-do list. Besides being named to speak in the school’s graduating ceremonies, he won several essay competitions.
One of those was the United States Institute of Peace’s National Peace Essay Contest, in which he placed as the winner for Arizona.
“Ever since I was a young kid I have been super interested in politics and world events,” he said.
Hunsaker’s essay described the way in which he says the United States must severely alter its approach to Security Sector Reform (SSR), managing events in other parts of the world with a view towards maintaining general peace in a given area.
He cited abject failure in the handling of the uprising in Egypt, and pointed out several faults in both strategy and execution in the handling of SSR during the war in Afghanistan.
“Some areas when I analyzed what we have done — we’ve acted really short-sighted,” said Hunsaker.
About the situation in Egypt, he said the U.S. hurried elections and didn’t allow the proper amount of time to select truly representative candidates.
“It goes back to letting the people have a say in the process.” he said. “People felt ignored and when people feel ignored they look for a way to lash out. Getting everybody involved means you have to slow down.”
Hunsaker’s coordinator, Skyline English Department Chair Jennifer Medlock, said Hunsaker is one of the first students she has had to show interest in essay contests focused more on political or social topics, and says that, unlike others, he sought out national-level contests.
“I think this essay is set apart by Justin’s passion for the topic and the essay itself,” said Medlock. “He is a highly motivated individual who wants to make the world a better place... Justin’s essay addresses security reform as a big picture.”
She said Hunsaker is motivated by helping others see that big picture, and the opportunity to express his ideas to a larger audience motivated him to further research and analyze the topics he considers important.
When asked why she thought the essay didn’t advance as far as others focused on specific human interest stories, (the top three essays all dealt with gender equality issues in the third world) she said, “I don’t think it necessarily points to a lack of interest in the bigger picture, just a different approach. As a teacher, I want my students to think critically and analytically. To that end, I tend to steer them away from emotional appeals and toward logical arguments.”
Hunsaker said he plans to study political science at Arizona State University and he said he might move on to law school from there.