Winter 2015 National Student Writing Competition Winners

Congratulations to the essay winners of our winter 2015 student writing contest "Letting Go of Worry."
Writing Contest.jpeg

Photo by Charlotte Gonzalez, Flickr.

Participants read and responded to the YES! article, Life After Worry by Akaya Windwood. Akaya’s story is about her realization that worrying never changes the outcome of whatever she worries about. She discovers that when she replaces worry with trust she can be more present for her sister who has MS. And her friends, co-workers, and family find her more clear-headed, creative, and strong.

Be inspired by the honest reflections these student writers offer about what worries them—from grades and fitting in, to divorce and death—and how replacing worry with something else would help them  rise above their anxieties. Also, be sure to read Akaya Windwood’s response to the essay winners and excerpts from other essays that caught our eye.


Middle School Winner: 

Leah Berkowitz



High School Winner:

Rechanne Waddell



University Winner:

Noah Schultz


Powerful Voice Winners:


Melanie Fox




Carolina Mendez




Margaret O’Neil



Read below for more information about the winter contest, and stay tuned for the results of the spring essay contest “Learning That Matters.” 



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.


Life After Worry

This winter, students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article Life After Worry by Akaya Windwood.

In this article, Akaya shares that worrying never changed the outcome of whatever she worried about. She discovers that when she replaces worry with trust she can be more present for her sister who has MS. And her friends, co-workers, and family find her more clear-headed, creative, and strong.

The Writing Prompt

Think of the things you worry about. What is one worry you’d like to throw away? What would you replace your worry with, and what would you—and possibly those around you— gain by not having that worry in your life?



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 January 14 (see link at bottom of page).
  • 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 February 18.
  • 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  30,000 teachers.
  • Teachers who submit essays will receive a free year of YES! magazine. (If you're a current subscriber, we'll add a year onto your subscription.) They will also 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 January 14.
    • E-mail your three best student essays as word-processed document attachments (please no pdf or scanned documents) to no later than February 18.
    • Include a scanned, completed student release form with each submitted essay.


    The next YES! National Student Writing Competition is in spring 2015.

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


    Get Started Here:

    Registration Form

    Student Release Form

    Evaluation Rubric

    Exemplary Essay Project logo