Fall 2019 National Student Writing Competition: Honoring Your Roots

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 something meaningful for an audience beyond the classroom 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. There are four award categories: middle school, high school, university, and Powerful Voice (for authors whose essays are especially powerful and passionate). Winning essays in each category, plus Literary Gems (excerpts that catch our eye) are published on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter, reaching thousands of YES! readers and more than 11,000 teachers. One winning essay per contest is published in our quarterly print magazine.

Registration is now closed.

Click here for the 2019-20 writing contest calendar and general information about the competition.

Read recently featured essays here.

Honoring Your Roots

For the fall contest, students will read the YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” by Kayla DeVault.

Multiracial people are one of the two fastest-growing populations in the U.S., especially for children under 15. Native American author Kayla DeVault’s ancestors include Shawnee, Anishinaabe, Eastern European, Scottish, and Irish. She explains that simply saying “I am this” isn’t enough. To truly honor her heritage, she found that she must understand and participate in it through rituals like preparing traditional foods with grandmas and aunties, and by exploring family history. 

The Writing Prompt:

Students, please respond to the writing prompt below with an essay of 600 or fewer words:

What do you consider your ancestral or ethnic identities? How connected are you to all of these parts? Describe how you honor and participate (or not) in them. Like DeVault, do you find yourself wanting to explore parts of your identity that you feel disconnected from or know little about?*

*Some students who are adopted, fostered, moved between households in divorce or come from other situations may not feel comfortable writing about their ancestral identity. They are welcome to write about their other identities, such as gender, sexual, religious or economic class, instead.

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), or college/university.

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 the writing prompt provided by YES!
  • Provide an original essay title
  • Reference the article in the essay
  • 600 or fewer words
  • Must be original, unpublished 

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 essays?

  • You must be registered for the competition by Sept. 27.
  • 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 Nov. 1
  • You may submit up to three essays per class. 
  • Each essay must have a completed student release form. Student email addresses must be legible and visible. Please send all release forms in one pdf. NOTE: Please submit all student essays by Nov. 1, even if there are missing release forms. You may send completed students releases as soon as you receive them.
  • Winners will be announced by the end of December.

What happens if my student’s essay is selected as a winner?

  • Students whose essays are selected as winning essays will go through the editing process with YES! staff to get their writing ready for publication. This is a valuable experience that requires extra time.
  • Winning essays in each category are published on the YES! Media website and in our online education newsletter, reaching thousands of YES! readers, including over 11,000 teachers.
  • One winning essay per contest is chosen by YES! editors to be published in our quarterly print magazine.
  • The article’s author also responds to essay winners about their ideas and writing. This letter is published with the winning essays.

Anything else I should know?

  • A dozen or so “literary gems”—excerpts that caught our eye—are chosen to highlight the ideas and writing generated from the contest.
  • We respond to all student writers with a thoughtful note about their essay.
  • Teachers who participate in a fall, winter, or spring contest receive one free year of YES!. One lucky participating teacher is randomly selected each contest to win free YES! swag

Contest Forms:

Student Release Form
Evaluation Rubric

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