Foreign Service Youth Foundation McGrath Sponsorship


The annual FSYF Essay Contest challenges U.S. Foreign Service youth to answer a topic question in 1,000 words or fewer. In 2017 the Middle School and High School topic is the same:

Draw upon an experience or experiences in your Foreign Service life that took you outside your ‘comfort zone’, and write an essay centered on something you learned or an insight you gained. Use specific examples and narrative.


  • Six winners (3 Middle School youth and 3 High School youth) receive generous cash prizes made possible by McGrath Real Estate Services. All winners will be honored at the Youth Awards Ceremony at the Department of State in July 2017.
  • Contest Eligibility: All FSYF contests are open to children of U.S. Foreign Affairs agency officials who are eligible for overseas assignment and who report to the Chief of Mission when at post. Entry is free to FSYF members.
  • If you are not a member of FSYF (and do not wish to join at this time) you can still enter the FSYF contests by paying an entry fee of $20 per person, per contest (only one entry can be submitted for each contest).
  • The contest is open to FS youth living both domestically and at overseas posts. The children of FSYF Board and Advisory Council members and staff are not eligible to participate in the Essay Contest.


Jim McGrath with some of the honorees of the 2016 High School and Middle School competition, congratulations!

Sponsor Jim McGrath presents Lara Welch with 2016 High School Essay Contest Award.

Sponsor Jim McGrath presents Lara Welch with 2016 High School Essay Contest Award.

Sponsor Jim McGrath presents Penelope Duran with 2016 Middle School Essay Contest Award.

Sponsor Jim McGrath presents Penelope Duran with 2016 Middle School Essay Contest Award.

2016 Essay Contest Winners

High School Winners

  1. Kai Davis, First Place High School
  2. Lara Welch, Second Place High School
  3. Maria Connors, Third Place High School

Middle School Winners

  1. Stephen Harvey, First Place Middle School
  2. Penelope Duran, Second Place Middle School
  3. Hanako Ricci, Third Place Middle School


The Foreign Service Youth Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Essay Contest, sponsored by McGrath Real Estate Services. These insightful, original essays from around the world made the selection process difficult. However, the judges selected six winners who will be honored at the Youth Awards Ceremony which will be held at the headquarters of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) in Washington, DC, on Friday July 19, 2013.

The winners will receive generous cash prizes totaling up to $2550 made possible by McGrath Real Estate Services. Essay Topic Question This year the topic question challenged Foreign Service youth in both the middle and high school categories to consider, “How is a foreign service child’s ‘sense of home’ affected or shaped by the itinerant life and prolonged immersion in different languages, cultures, and environments?”

High School Category

1st Place:
Ashley Wee Miller First place in the high school category and $800 was awarded to 17 year-old for her essay “A Foreign Service Child’s Sense of Home”.  Ashley, the daughter of Daniel Miller and Ai Chin Wee, is a rising senior at the International School of Manila. The family was previously posted to New Delhi. Ashley’s compelling essay eloquently demonstrates the effects that multiple languages, cultures and moves have on a child’s sense of self and home. “We are the unsung informal lesser diplomats, neither accredited nor acclaimed,” writes Ashley, and with that responsibility comes a maturity that she clearly exemplifies. In addition to reading and writing, Ashley enjoys sports, music, service projects and traveling the world.

2nd Place:
Andrea Salazar Second place in the high school category and $500 was awarded to Andrea Salazar for her essay “My Home: A College of Different Places”. Andrea is a 2013 graduate of Frankfurt International School. The daughter of Jose and Wendy Salazar, Andrea has previously lived in New Mexico, South Africa, Germany, Virginia and Thailand. Andrea’s essay highlights the common experiences that Foreign Service children have of trying to explain where they are from, but goes on to note music as “a universal language that crosses language and cultural barriers.” Music has played an important part in developing a sense of home for Andrea. “There is something inherently powerful and influential about music that allows it to be a medium by which new friendships and connections can be made.” Andrea will be attending George Mason University in the fall where she will be majoring in music composition.

3rd Place:
Natalie Hernandez Third place in the high school category and $300 was awarded to 17 year-old Natalie Hernandez for her essay “Rummy and Ritz: A Survivor’s Story”. Natalie is the daughter of Sally Sternal and Mauricio Hernandez. Her family is currently posted to Nassau, Bahamas where she just finished her senior year at St. Andrew’s School. Natalie’s winning essay depicts her family’s experience during a coup d’etat in Honduras and how that helped define a sense of home for her. Bilingual in English and Spanish, Natalie has focused much of her talent and energy on the medical service organizations Operation Smile and Jovenes en Accion, and enjoys her activities in Chess Club and Model United Nations. Natalie is headed to the University of Pennsylvania in the fall where she plans to study International Relations.

Middle School Category

1st Place:
Krishna Srini First place in the middle school category and $500 was awarded to 14 year-old Krishna Srini. Krishna, the son of Roy Srini and Debra Miller, is currently posted to Wellington, New Zealand where he is homeschooled. The Srini family previously lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Krishna’s winning entry “Home?” offered an intriguing and offbeat essay about his sense of home before and after his family joined the Foreign Service. His disparate observations paint a disjointed, yet accurate, portrait of life from the perspective of a foreign service child. In his free time, Krishna enjoys anything related to computers, tennis and watching Doctor Who.

2nd Place:
Dhara Srini Second place in the middle school category and $300 was awarded to 12-year-old Dhara Srini. Dhara, the daughter of Roy Srini and Debra Miller, is currently posted to Wellington, New Zealand with her similarly talented older brother. She is homeschooled. The Srini family was previously posted to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Dhara’s essay “Home is Where the Curry Pot is Full” gives life to her sense of home, writing “My family is not the only one traveling, home travels with us”. Home is as transient as her family and is the place where familiar foods signify family togetherness. Aside from writing, Dhara enjoys playing violin and hopes to start piano soon and can be found watching Doctor Who with her brother.

3rd Place:
Thomas Green Third place in the middle school category and $150 was awarded to 12 year-old Thomas Green. Thomas is the son of Travis and Sarah Green, and is currently in transit from their previous post in Moscow to San Jose, Costa Rica. Thomas is homeschooled. Thomas’ essay “Home is an Anchor” ably compares his sense of home with the comfort and stability of an anchor while concluding that “Locations, experiences and friends tie us to our true home, which might be in an unchanging location or just where we are.” When he has free time, Thomas enjoys ballet, reading and climbing trees, of which there should be plenty in Costa Rica!



Congratulations to both the high school and middle school 2012 Essay contest winners!

This year many great essays were submitted but only three from each category could be chosen. The high school winners included first place winner Vivian Holt currently stationed n Gaborone, Botswana, second place winner Caroline Ezekwesili currently stationed in Cape Town, South Africa and third place winner Elizabeth Caltagirone stationed in New Delhi, India.

The middle school winners included first place winner Alexander Toyryla currently posted in Chengdu, China. Second place was awarded to Claudia Amadeo, currently posted to Brasilia, Brazil and third place winner Martin Lahm, currently posted to Bucharest, Romania. To read the winning essays and read more about the winners, visit the
Former Foreign Service Officers Edward and Margaret McGrath founded McGrath Real Estate Services in 1976.

The McGraths understood the unique challenges associated with owning and managing real estate while balancing work that requires international travel starting their company to assist others with the process. Now three decades later, their sons Timothy and James McGrath, are responsible for over 600 properties and a combined value of over $3 million.

The brothers’ unique experience as Foreign Service children inspired them to work with the Foreign Service Youth Foundation to sponsor youth in the annual Foreign Service Youth Essay Contest. The 2010 topic question was: “Identify an issue that you would like to learn more about as a member of a U.S. Foreign Service family currently living in NAME OF COUNTRY. Explain why this issue is important to you, how you will learn more about it, and what you will do with the information. Consider how your Foreign Service lifestyle has stimulated your interest in this issue and your ability to understand it.”
There were many wonderful articles submitted but only four young adults could be chosen. Special guest, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, spoke at the 2010 event and awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. If your child is interested in participating please contact the Foreign Service Youth Foundation at