Tag Archives: Essay poetry contest character education resource center university of san diego middle school high school


Theme: How My Character Developed During the Pandemic

The Character Education Resource Center, in the Department of Learning and Teaching, School of Leadership & Education Sciences at the University of San Diego, is pleased to announce a new essay and poetry contest for all public, private, and home school students in grades 6 through 8 and grades 9 through 12 in San Diego and Imperial Counties.

This essay and poetry contest enables students and teachers to meet the California Department of Education’s mandate 235.5 (a) for character and civic education in grades 6-12 as well as Common Core Standards.

The purpose of this contest is to encourage middle and high school students to explore and address the issues, thoughts, and feelings that are most important and significant to them as they cope with living through the COVID-19 Pandemic.


How is the pandemic affecting you and the people around you?

How is pandemic related to other significant experiences in your life?

How are you dealing with feelings such as anxiety or isolation during the pandemic?

Each essay or poem should address some of these character traits:
Respect, Responsibility, Empathy, Perseverance, Gratitude.


Essays must be the sole, original work of the student.

Students in grades 6-8 should submit an essay of no more than 600 words. 

Students in grade 9-12 should submit an essay of no more than 1000 words.

The title of the essay and added footnotes do not contribute to the word count.

The text of the essays should be in English, in Microsoft Word or PDF format.  Once students have completed the final version of their essay, they should give them to their teacher.


Poems must be the sole, original work of the student.

One poem per student.

Poems must be single-spaced and not be over 21 lines of text, (blank lines between stanzas are not counted).

The text of the poem should be in English, in Microsoft Word or PDF format.

Once students have completed the final version of their poem, they should give them to their teacher.


To Teachers:  In this contest we require teachers to be the first reviewers.  The teacher’s role is to select up to two of the best essays and two of the best poems for each class that he/she teaches, and to submit only those essays and poems for consideration.

Teachers who teach multiple classes are able to submit two essays and two poems per class.  For example, if a teacher teaches five classes he/she may submit 10 essays and 10 poems in total.

The teacher electronically submits the selected essays/poems (as an attachment) in a WORD or PDF format to the Character Education Resource Center via email, character@sandiego.edu.

Include the following in the body of the email for each essay and poem submitted.

    1. Student’s name
    2. Grade level
    3. School name and address
    4. Teacher contact information (email/ phone)
    5. Permission to use the essay/poem, if selected


Essays/poems will be judged by teams of graduate students in a teacher education program in San Diego County, using the rubric identified below.

  • 50% – Knowledge of the theme 
    The student showed a thorough knowledge of the theme in the essay and/or poem.
  • 25% – Creativity and originality of the essay/poem
    The student related the theme to her/his own experiences.
  • 25% – Clarity of writing
    The student’s essay/poem was written in an easy-to-understand format leaving the reader/judge with a clear understanding of her/his explanation of the theme.


September 9 to 18
Contest announcement

October 23
Student submission to their teacher

November 16
Teacher selections submitted to CERC

Week of November 23 (Thanksgiving Week)
Awards Announced


Middle School and High School Student Awards for Essays & Poems

First Place: $150 VISA Gift Card

Second Place: $100 VISA Gift Card

Third Place: $50 VISA Gift Card

Two (2) Honorable Mentions:  $25 VISA Gift Card

Winners will be announced on Character Education Resource Center website and social media.

Email us at character@sandiego.edu with any questions regarding the contest.

Make a gift to the Character Education Resource Center in support of the contest.