Essay Contest

Spring 2014
18th Annual Character Matters
Student Essay Contest

Download Entry Form

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. What we make of our selves, what we make of our lives, is a matter of choice -- our choice, and our responsibility.”
- Paraphrased -- Harry Potter's being counseled by the wise old headmaster, Dumbledore

Contest Divisions

  • Elementary grades 4 & 5
  • Middle grades 6 - 8
  • High School grades 9 – 12

The Center's 10 Badges of Character:  respect, responsibility, compassion, courage, perseverance, trust, honesty, gratitude, self-discipline, and citizenship.

The Character Matters Essay Contest provides a platform for insightful classroom discussion and students’ personal reflections on their experiences. This contest offers students an opportunity for conscious reflection and to engage in the Common Core State Writing Standards for  Literacy in History/Social Studies, Sciences, and Technical Subjects.  

Student Awards

  • 1st place: a $125 gift card and a plaque
  • 2nd place: a $75 gift card and a plaque
  • 3rd place: a $50 gift card and a plaque

Teacher Awards

Each participating teacher receives:

The nine (9) teachers of winning students receive:

  • Full Scholarship to attend the two day 18th Annual  Character Matters Conference: Thursday, June 26 and Friday, June 27, 2014
  • Certificates of participation for each student
  • Character education resource packet

Suggested Timeline

January - February 2014

  • When students return from winter break, plan class meetings and lessons to encourage your students to discuss character and the 10 virtues/traits.
  • Brainstorm possible topics with your students with a focus on the 10 Badges of Character and the theme “Why Character Matters.”

February - March 2014

  • Work with students on the structure of their essays: introduction, supporting paragraphs, conclusion, voice of the essay, and purpose of writing their particular essay. 

  • Create an opportunity for peer editing of the students rough drafts.
  • Have students write or type their final draft that should be about 1 or 2 pages.
  • Read all of the essays submitted by your students.  Select one or two of the best essays from each class that you teach.

April 2014

  • Submit an official entry form for each essay postmarked no later than Friday, April 11, 2014.
  • Mail the completed entry form and student essay(s) - See Submission Directions below.

May 2014

  • Teachers of 2014 student winners will be notified by email, and will inform the student(s) that he/she has been selected for the award.
  • Certificates of Participation will be mailed to all teachers for distribution to students in their classes who entered the contest.
  • During this month, the CDC staff will deliver the teacher and student awards to the school with a request that the teacher and or principal determine the best venue for presenting the award to the winning student.

Submission Directions

  1. Select one or two student essays for submission.
  2. Fill out the entry form and attach it to each student's essay.
  3. Make a copy of the students' essays and the form for your records.
  4. Essays/entry form must be postmarked by Friday, April 11, 2014.
  5. Mail the completed entry form and students' essays to:

    Character Development Center
    Attn: Character Matters Essay Contest
    School of Leadership & Education Sciences
    University of San Diego,
    5998 Alcala Park
    San Diego, CA 92110

Download Entry Form.