Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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The results are in! Nick Kristof has announced the winners of his 2011 Win-A-Trip Contest: the winner in the student category is Saumya Dave who studied writing at Columbia University and medicine at Medical College of Georgia, and the winner of the senior category is Noreen Connolly, a teacher from Newark, N.J.

For the second year, CGD helped screen the applicants, forwarding Nick a short list for his final selection. I recruited CGD colleagues to help. After reading the 571 senior and 444 student essays and watching 46 student and 35 senior videos, we sent along the names of finalists based on criteria that Nick explained in his recent column here (New York Times account required).

My main criterion in choosing a winner is not who will benefit the most, or who “deserves” it the most, but who can be most effective in interesting a larger audience in what we see. I firmly believe that many global problems fester because they’re invisible, and that the first step to addressing them is to build awareness — so I’m looking for people who have fantastic communications skills and a knack for shining a spotlight and getting people to care about distant problems.

This is the first year that Nick included a “seniors” category, in addition to the traditional student category. Student essays were hopeful and thoughtful; the authors reflected on childhood struggles and discussed future goals. The seniors—ages 60 and up—told how their past experiences would give them a unique lens to view the world. They wrote about volunteering for Peace Corps, mission trips abroad and experiences teaching children, owning businesses or raising families of their own.

The 2011 Winners:

Saumya, the student winner, was the 2010 runner-up and wrote an inspiring essay for the second year in a row. An international background, coupled with an education in both journalism and medicine, made her a strong choice to use her skills to share her unique perspective on the trip.

I want to learn and expose the D.N.A. of injustice. I want to call attention to the medical and personal histories of people.

Noreen’s lifelong career as a journalism teacher will give her the experience to expertly communicate to her students-- and students around the world-- stories from the trip this summer.

I spend most of my days trying to coax “sparkling prose” from adolescent boys in Newark, N.J. …I want to test myself to do the things I urge my students to do every day – find the story that won’t get told unless you do it.

Reading the many application essays, I was struck at the huge appetite among Nick’s readers for raising awareness about the lives of poor people in developing countries, and efforts to create opportunities for them to escape from poverty. My colleagues and I look forward to following the two winners on their trips as they blog and post videos for NYTimes.com. (You can read the essays by the finalists and the winners in the student category here and the senior category here.)