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YES! National Student Writing Competition

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The YES! National Student Writing Competition is an opportunity for middle school through university students to write for a real audience—not just you, the teacher—and the chance to be published by an award-winning magazine.

Each quarter, students are invited to read and write an essay on a selected YES! Magazine article. We divide contestants into four categories: middle school, high school, university, and Powerful Voice (for authors whose essays are powerful and passionate). Winning essays in each category are published on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter.

Read recent featured essays here.


Spring 2014 National Student Writing Competition


Fania Davis with students from Ralph Bunche High School


Where Dignity is Part of the School Day

This spring, students responded to the YES! Magazine article, “Where Dignity is Part of the School Day.”* Fania Davis’ story is about using restorative justice circles in schools in lieu of zero-tolerance punishment. She shows how giving a student the chance to tell his or her story can help teachers and administrators get to the root of a behavioral problem, and ultimately keep kids in school and out of jail.

*This is the print magazine article title. The web version is titled "Discipline with Dignity: Oakland Classrooms Try Healing Instead of Punishment."

Writing prompt:

In Fania Davis's YES! Magazine article, "Where Dignity is Part of the School Day," Tommy participates in a restorative justice circle instead of being punished.

Describe a memorable example of when you or someone you know was disciplined at school. Was everyone given the chance to tell his or her story? Imagine you have the talking piece. What would you say to the teachers or school administrators involved about how the situation was handled? What would you say to teachers and school administrators  in general to encourage them to treat all students with genuine dignity and respect?


Who is eligible?

  • You must be a classroom teacher—homeschool cooperative, resource centers, supervised writing groups, and schools outside the U.S. included—for your students to participate.
  • Student writers should be in grades 6-8, grades 9-12, college/university, or adult continuing education.

How does it work?

  • Complete the competition registration form by registration deadline (see link at bottom of page).
  • Students respond to the YES! article with a letter up to 700 words.
  • Submit up to three essays per class period, along with student release forms, by submission deadline.
  • For each of the following categories, YES! staff (and possibly the author of the article) will select one essay that we feel is well-written, compelling, and captures the spirit of the article:
      • Grades 6-8
      • Grades 9-12
      • College/university
      • Powerful Voice (for an author whose essay is uniquely powerful or thought-provoking)
  • The selected essays will be featured on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter, reaching thousands of YES! readers, including over 26,000 teachers.
  • Teachers who submit essays will be entered into a drawing to win a Kleen Kanteen and a dozen YES! posters for his or her classroom. See what you could win here!


Common Core State Standards:

This writing competition meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W.9-10.3 and W.9-10.4 for Writing, and RI.9-10.1 and RI.9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text *

*This standard applies to other grade levels. “9-10” is used as an example.


What are the essay requirements?

  • Respond to the article and writing prompt provided by YES!
  • Provide an original essay title
  • Reference the article
  • No more than 700 words
  • Must be original, unpublished work
  • Teachers must read and submit their students' essays. Remember, the limit is three essays per class period! Please take time to read your students' essays to ensure they have met essay requirements, including correct grammar. Unfortunately, we cannot accept essays sent independently by students.

In addition, we are evaluating essays for:

  • Grammar
  • Organization
  • Strong style and personal voice. We encourage writers to include personal examples and insights.
  • Originality and clarity of content and ideas

How do I submit the three best essays from my class?

  • You must be registered for the competition by registration deadline.
  • E-mail your three best student essays as word-processed document attachments (please no pdf or scanned documents) to no later than submission deadline.
  • Include a scanned, completed student release form with each submitted essay.


The next YES! National Student Writing Competition is in Fall 2014.

Questions? Please email, and thank you for joining us!


Get Started Here:

Registration Form

Student Release Form

Evaluation Rubric

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Email Signup
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