Winter 2019 National Student Writing Competition: Border (In)Security

Want to inspire your students to write? Here's an opportunity to write about something meaningful and for an audience beyond the classroom.

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 especially powerful and passionate). Winning essays in each category are published on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter, reaching thousands of YES! readers, including more than 11,000 teachers. One winning essay per contest is chosen by YES! editors to be published in our quarterly print magazine.

For the winter 2019 contest, we’re trying something different. Instead of one writing prompt, students will have two to choose from. Contest requirements remain the same—you send in your three best essays per class and we choose one set of middle school, high school, university and Powerful Voice winners. There will not be separate winners chosen for each writing prompt.

Register here by December 7. Essays are due by Jan. 25.

Click here for general information about the writing competition.

Read recent featured essays here.

Border (In)Security

This winter, students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article “Two-Thirds of Americans Live in the “Constitution-Free Zone” by Lornet Turnbull.

In this story, journalist Lornet Turnbull examines the spate of Greyhound bus raids that have exposed an obscure law that gives U.S. border officials the authority to board and search any vehicle without a warrant and ask occupants to prove their legal status in this country. Searches are not limited to the border, but extend 100 miles into the interior and across the entire perimeter of the country—where two-thirds of the U.S. population lives. Immigrant advocacy groups have warned people of racial profiling and civil rights violations.

The Writing Prompts:

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

1. When border officials board Greyhound buses, they sometimes target individuals they believe are undocumented based on an accent or even what the person is wearing. 

Write about a time when someone made an unfair assumption about you. What was the impact on you? How did you respond, and what did you learn from the experience?

2. Since 1953, U.S. border officials have had the authority to stop and search any vehicle, like a Greyhound bus, without a warrant, not only at ports of entry but within 100 miles of any U.S. external boundary if there is suspicion of wrongdoing. They can also ask occupants to prove their legal status in this country. 

Describe your position on the Constitution-free zone. Do you think that this is an effective and justifiable means to make the country more “secure”? How should we decide who is welcome in the U.S. and who is not?

Who is eligible?

You must be a classroom teacher—homeschool cooperatives, resource centers, supervised writing groups, and schools outside the U.S. included—for your students to participate. We cannot accept essays or registrations independently sent by students. Student writers should be in grades 6-8 (middle school), grades 9-12 (high school), college/university, or adult continuing education.

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 one of the writing prompts provided by YES!
    • Provide an original essay title
    • Reference the article in the essay
    • No more than 700 words
    • Must be original, unpublished words

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 essays?

    • You must be registered for the competition by December 7, 2018.
    • E-mail your student essays as word-processed document attachments (please no pdf or scanned documents) or as an open-access Google Doc to [email protected] no later than January 25, 2019. Please do not send essays to [email protected]
    • You may submit up to three essays per class. Example: If you are submitting essays for two classes, you may send up to a total of six essays—but they must be up to three essays per class, not four essays for one class and two from the other. Even though we have two prompts, you still must limit yourself to three essays per class. Separate winners will not be chosen for each writing prompt. 
    • Include a scanned, completed student release form with each submitted essay. Please make sure student email addresses are legible and visible. NOTE: Please submit all student essays by January 25th, even if there are missing release forms. You may send completed students releases as soon as you receive them.
    • Winners will be announced on March 14, 2019.

Contest Forms:

Registration Form
Student Release Form
Evaluation Rubric

Future Contests

*Spring 2019
Details announced: Feb. 7
Registration due: Feb. 27
Essays due: April 9
Winners announced: May 23

Questions? Please email [email protected]

Thank you for joining us!

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