Winter 2016 National Student Writing Competition: Every Girl's Right

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.
Shazia & Kainat hug Malala.jpg

Photo of Kainat Riaz, Shazia Ramzan, and Malala Yousafzai courtesy of the Malala Fund.

REGISTRATION IS CLOSED. Details for our Spring 2016 contest will be announced on April 2!


The YES! 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

Click here for general information about the writing competition.


Every Girl's Right

This winter, students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article, "Standing With Malala: Meet the Teenagers Who Survived the Taliban and Kept Going to School."  From 2009-2012 the Taliban forcefully banned girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan from going to school. In an interview with Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, the two friends of Malala who were also shot on the bus tell the story of the traumatic experience that emboldened them to stand up for the right of every girl to an education.  

We recommend viewing the accompanying trailer for the documentary He Named Me Malala, an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai. The film also highlights the bond she shares with her father as they stand up for girls' education together.

Visit Students Stand#With Malala for screening opportunities of the film, plus free, downloadable curriculum and discussion guides for your classroom.


The Writing Prompt

The Taliban prohibited Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz from going to their schools in Pakistan because they were girls. No books, no teachers, no school friends, no future. But that didn't stop them. Now, they attend high school in Wales, and are standing up for a girl's fundamental right to free, safe, quality education. Worldwide, over 60 million girls are currently prevented from going to school.

Describe how you would feel if you were forcibly banned from going to school tomorrow—and indefinitely. What would you do?


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 20, 2016.
  • 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, 2016.
  • 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 January 20, 2016.
  • E-mail your three best student essays as word-processed document attachments (please no pdf or scanned documents) to [email protected] no later than February 18, 2016
  • 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 Spring 2016. Details will be announced on February 24, 2016. Registration is due March 4, 2016.


Questions? Please email [email protected]


Thank you for joining us!


Get Started Here:

Registration Form 

Student Release Form

Evaluation Rubric

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