Essay Contest Rules

In January, the nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. The Martin Luther King Community Coalition (“King Coalition”), Altadena and Pasadena NAACP, Pasadena Unified School District, Ecumenical Council of Pasadena Area Congregations, National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., Gamma Lambda Chapter, Pasadena Tournament of Roses and Aspires West in conjunction with the City of Pasadena will host a celebration at Jackie Robinson Park (1081 N Fair Oaks Ave. Pasadena 91103).

The King Coalition is a group of community members working to make Dr. King’s dreams become a reality through spiritual renewal, economic strategies, educational opportunities, health and social initiatives. Part of the celebration will be the culmination of the annual essay contest. Awards will only be presented to winners who are present at the MLK program in January. ALL students will receive a Certificate honoring their participation.


Any student in grades 4-12 is eligible. Individuals will compete within the following designated categories: elementary, intermediate (junior high school) or high school.

***For the 2011-2012 MLK Essay Contest theme, click here.


Essays will be judged according to the following three categories:

Elementary (Grades 4 and 5)

  • 150 words minimum
  • 350 words maximum

Intermediate (Grades 6, 7 and 8 )

  • 350 words minimum
  • 650 words maximum

High School (Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12)

  • 450 words minimum
  • 800 words maximum

Submissions must be sent or delivered to the following department:
Dr. David L. Jacobs
Scott United Methodist Church
Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest
444 N. Orange Grove Blvd.
Pasadena 91103-3541.
(For more information call Dr. David L. Jacobs at 626.794.9031)

All essays must have a cover-page attached with the following information:

Student’s name (first and last names)
Student’s address
Contact phone number
Student’s age (clearly distinguished from grade)
Student’s grade (clearly distinguished from age)
Teacher’s name (first and last names)
School name

All entries must be either
Postmarked by October 5 2012, or
Received in-person by 6 pm October 5 2012.



Awards will be given to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners in the three categories. Additional awards will be given to the 1st place teacher and school of the winner for each category.

Judging Criteria

  1. Development of theme (40 pts) — The content of the essay should demonstrate an understanding of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his philosophy. The essay should include suggestions and ideas from the student discussing practical ways to apply Dr. King’s ideas to the contest essay prompt.
  2. Organization (30 pts) — The essay should exhibit clarity of thought, strong vocabulary, grammar, spelling and punctuation skills. A neat appearance is also important (ie., typed or neat handwriting).
  3. Creativity (30 pts) — The essay should express originality of though and the student’s genuine, unique perspective on the issues related to the essay theme.