Essay Contest

Congratulations to our 2016 Character Matters Essay Contest Winners!

Elementary School Division

Placement Winners Title Teacher School
1st Marc Jinich Personification Dianne Shapp San Diego Jewish Academy
2nd Javier Paredes Character Matters as a Follower of God Kristina Sipe Santa Sophia Academy
3rd Harper Hakim The Keys to a Good Life Diane Dunning St. Michael's

Middle School Division

Placement Winners Title Teacher School
1st Anushree Chaudhuri Something Robots Will Never Have Kelly Kangas Mesa Verde Middle School
2nd Cyndi Wu A Thousand Mile Journey Kelly Kangas Mesa Verde Middle School
3rd Kenan Pala From Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. - How World Leaders Show Us That Character Matters Rob Campbell Francis Parker

High School Division

Placement Winners Title Teacher School
1st Santiago Solis Mi Vida Loka Catherine Campos Diego Hills Charter School
2nd Michelle Fong Decisions Aleen Jenian Helix Charter High School
3rd Kendall Kolp What Does Character Mean to Me Sherry Lockie Poway High School

Spring 2016 - 20th Annual Character Matters Student Essay Contest

Essay Submission Form

 You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you’re the one who’ll decide where to go.

 Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

 The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

--------- Quotes by Dr. Seuss

Contest Divisions

  • Elementary Schools, grades 4 and 5
  • Middle Schools, grades 6 - 8
  • High Schools, grades 9 – 12

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


Students choose either prompt a or b:

a. Why Does Character Matter?


b. What does character mean to you and why is it relevant to your life today?

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

A few of the Common Core Standards addressed in this essay contest include:


With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grade 5 here.)

Grade 9 - CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.4

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

Grade 11 - CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.11-12.1.A

Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Suggested Timeline

January - 2016

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

February - March 2016

  • 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 students’ rough drafts.
  • Have students write or type their final draft that should be 1-2 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 - 2016

  • Electronically submit an official entry form for each essay no later than Friday, April 15, 2016 by 9:00pm
  • Note that a student essay(s) and the entry form must be ELECTRONICALY submitted. Hardcopies are not acceptable. See Submission Directions below.

May - 2016

  • Teachers of 2016 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.
  • In consultation with you, the winning teacher, 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.

Student Awards (each category)

  • 1st place: $200 gift card and a plaque
  • 2nd place: $100 gift card and a plaque
  • 3rd place: $75 gift card and a plaque

Teacher Awards

Each participating teacher receives:

  • 50% reduction on the registration fee to attend the two-day Character Matters Conference at the University of San Diego: Thursday, June 23 and Friday, June 24, 2016
  • Certificate of participation

The nine (9) teachers of winning students receive:

  • Full Scholarship to attend the two-day Character Matters Conference at the University of San Diego: Thursday, June 23 and Friday, June 24, 2016
  • Certificate of participation
  • Character education resource packet ($200 value)

Submission Directions

  1. Select one or two student essays for submission.
  2. Send an entry form and the student's essay online
  3. Keep a copy of the students' essays and the forms for your records.
  4. Essays/entry form should be emailed no later than Friday, April 15, 2016 by 9:00 p.m.


Contact CDC Staff: