Fall 2015 National Student Writing Competition: Justice for All

Want a motivator to take your students' writing to a higher level? Here's an opportunity for them to write for a real audience, and the chance to get published by an award-winning magazine.
A Milwaukee Black Lives Matter march. Photo by Light Brigade.

A Milwaukee Black Lives Matter march. Photo by Light Brigade.

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

Register here

Click here for general information about the writing competition.

 

Justice for All

This fall, students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article, “I Can’t Breathe Until Everyone Can Breathe.”  In this story, author and entrepreneur Gerald Mitchell wrestles with the enormity of the situation in Ferguson and the unjust deaths of so many unarmed Black Americans by police. He takes an honest look at himself to see how he’s part of the problem, and commits to joining others in building a better world of justice for all. 


The Writing Prompt

Gerald Mitchell feels that the root of the mistreatment and tragic deaths of unarmed Black people is not just racist police practices. The cause also stems from inhumane, exploitative societal practices, like shopping at places that don't pay their workers enough to support their families, that all of us—consciously or not— participate in and support every day.

 We can start acknowledging our problem by realizing that there is always a human being on the other side of our actions. As we are all part of the problem, we also are all part of the solution in gaining justice for Black people and beyond. 

Like Gerald Mitchell, dig deep to identify and explain how you personally can treat people more justly. Describe what treating people fairly and humanely looks like to you. How might your actions make a difference where you live (school and community)? In greater society?

 

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 October 9 (see link at bottom of page).—REGISTRATION CLOSED, stay tuned for our Winter competition.
  • Students respond to the YES! article with an essay up to 700 words.
  • Submit up to three essays per class period, along with student release forms, by November 5.
  • 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:
    • Middle School (Grades 6-8)
    • High School (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 30,000 teachers.

 

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 words
  • 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 October 9.
  • E-mail your three best student essays as word-processed document attachments (please no pdf or scanned documents) to writingcompetition@yesmagazine.org no later than November 5
  • Include a scanned, completed student release form with each submitted essay. Please make sure student email addresses are legible and visible. 

 

The next writing competition is in winter 2016. Details will be announced on December 3, 2015. Registration is due January 14, 2016.

 

Questions? Please email writingcompetition@yesmagazine.org

 

Thank you for joining us!

 

Get Started Here:

Registration Form 

Student Release Form

Evaluation Rubric

 

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