Winter 2017 National Student Writing Competition: Your Sacred Place

Want a motivator to take your students' writing to a higher level? Here's an opportunity to write about something meaningful and for a bigger audience beyond the classroom.

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard at Sacred Stone Camp along the banks of the Cannonball River. Photo by Kat Eng.

The YES! National Student Writing Competition is an opportunity for middle school through university students to write about something meaningful, and a chance to write for a real audience—not just you, the teacher.

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.

Registration for the Winter Contest is closed. Essays are due no later than February 1.

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Click here for general information about the writing competition.

Read recent featured essays here.


Your Sacred Place

This winter, students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article, Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre. In this article, founder and director of Sacred Stone Camp, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard describes how her identity, history and survival are intrinsically connected to the land—and water—that is being threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline. To protect this place, Allard says they have no choice but to stand up.  

The Writing Prompt

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, over 300 Native American tribes, and other allies are protesting construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. At stake are important cultural and spiritual areas, sacred lands and rivers, and people’s histories. For many Native Americans, it feels as if “erasing this footprint from the world, erases Native Americans as people.”

Students, please respond to the writing prompt below with an up-to-700-word essay:

Describe how you would feel if a place that defines you was threatened to be destroyed or taken away. What would you do? Would you fight to save it? 

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 December 9 (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 1, 2017.
• For each of the following categories, YES! staff will select one essay that we feel is well-written, compelling, and captures the spirit of the article:
o Middle School (Grades 6-8)
o High School (Grades 9-12)
o College/university
o 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 16,000 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 (see rubric at bottom of page):

• 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 contest by Dec. 9th.
• E-mail your three best student essays as word-processed document attachments (please convert your Google Docs to Word if you can, and please no pdf or scanned documents) to [email protected] no later than February 1st.
• Include a scanned, completed student release form
with each submitted essay. Please make sure student email addresses are legible and visible—preferably typed. NOTE: Submit all student essays by Feb. 1, even if there are missing release forms since we will be evaluating essays the next day. You may send completed releases at your soonest convenience.

Get Started Here:

Registration Form
Student Release Form
Evaluation Rubric

Writing Competition Calendar 2016-2017

To help you plan for the remainder of the 2016-17 school year, here are key dates for the spring writing contest: 

Spring 2017

Details announced: February 1, 2017

Registration due: March 3, 2017

Essays due: April 14


Questions? Please email [email protected]

Thank you for joining us!


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