McLean Teen Wins Foreign Service Award

McLean Teen Wins Foreign Service Award

>At the tender age of 17, Andrew Rohrbach is being heralded as having a great future for the Foreign Service. Rohrbach came to the attention of the American Foreign Service Association when he entered an essay contest about the role of the Foreign Service and its members in today’s world. He was named the first-place winner last month.

Tom Switzer, director of communications for the Foreign Service, said, “It is being considered by many diplomats to be the most thoughtful essay ever written. They are already predicting that he will rise to the top of the diplomatic community. He could step in today, at the age of 17, and do it.”

Andrew, from McLean, is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. He acts as the secretary general of the Model United Nations Club at his school and intends to pursue a career in diplomatic relations some day.

The topic he chose to write about for his essay is the relationship between the United States and Russia and the two countries’ roles in identifying and eliminating nuclear materials to prevent terrorists from using them as weapons.

He has been taking Russian language classes since he was a freshman and credits his teacher, Elizabeth Sandstrom, with instilling in him an interest in the developing relationship between the two countries. Rohrbach also volunteers his time tutoring recent Russian immigrants.

“I knew I wanted to talk about Russia or something related to Russia. This is an example of how the international community should work,” said Andrew. “After 80 years of hatred during the Cold War, these two countries are working together to make the world a better place.”

“HIS ESSAY WAS BRILLIANT and insightful. Everyone from the Secretary on down has said ‘Wow’ when they read it,” Switzer said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, also a McLean resident, delivered Andrew’s award to him, saying he is “an outstanding example of how American youth can contribute to a better understanding of international affairs among their fellow students nationwide.”

According to AFSA president Ambassador John Limbert, “The goal of the contest is to encourage students and teachers from all over the United States to think about the role and functions of the U.S. Foreign Service, the craft of diplomacy, and America’s role in the world. The students are required to write a 700- to 1,000-word essay that answers the essay question and meets strict standards of research, style and English language. The essays go through three rigorous rounds of judging.” Active and retired Foreign Service members and teachers make up the judging panel.

According to Switzer, more than 1,000 essays were received for the contest this year. “I’ve seen some good ones, but nothing like this before. The subject is so complicated, foreign policy in terms of handling terrorism, but it was just written so well,” said Switzer. “He’s an exceptional young scholar and American.”

Andrew’s parents, though delighted with the award and the accolades, were not certain early on that their son would do as well as he did in the contest. “I wrote it at the end of junior year,” said Andrew. “I was scrambling to make sure academics were in line at the time. When I showed it to my parents and they were, like, that’s nice, but you need to get back to your homework.”

Andrew’s mother, Linda, said of her son’s interest in Russia, “It’s his passion.”

It’s a passion that Andrew credits his school with giving him. “The school I go to is a very special place. There are 250 members in my Model U.N. Club. That’s a tremendous opportunity I may not have had in other schools,” Andrew said. He is able to give a little bit back to his school by winning the contest. “The school of our first-place winner receives a $500 award,” said Limbert. Those funds will be used for library materials, as stipulated in the contest rules.

As Andrew concentrates on starting the new school year and applying for early admission to college, he says he learned something important through writing the essay. Andrew said, “What I really see is that the world is becoming a smaller and smaller place. Nations need to work together. After 9/11 we face tremendous problems, and no one country can unilaterally solve these problems.”