Teacher & Classroom Submission

We have gone digital! The essay contest can be used as a classroom assignment and can help foster better engagement of fathers, father-figures, grandfathers and step fathers in the education of their children.

Steps for TEACHER Entry

  • Have your students fill out the Student Entry Form directly in the editable PDF 
  • Ask students to include reactions to their essays from their dads or father-figures
  • Collect and submit entries through the Essay Submission Form below by March 22nd, 2024
  • Up to 40 entries can be submitted with each Essay Submission Form


*If you run into any technical issues during the submissions process please contact info@4dads.org.

Contest Details

Each student is asked to write a 3000-character (or less) essay on the theme

“What My Father or an Important Father-Figure Means to Me,” describing their relationship with their father or father-figure.

Students should share their true feelings. Provide examples of joys, frustrations, or special memories they have as well as comment about what they would most like to see in their relationship. A father figure can be a stepdad, grandfather, uncle, pastor, or coach. It can even be a mom, stepmom, grandmother, or aunt if there are no influential males in an essayist’s life.


Submissions will be evaluated according to grade level. The judging criteria will consist of:


  1. How the essay describes the relationship.
  2. Detail and stories that demonstrate the character of the father/father figure.
  3. Honesty, clarity, simplicity of writing.
  4. Overall grade level appropriate writing skill.



  1. Essays will be divided into the 13 grade levels (K-12).
  2. Volunteers will use the above judging criteria, reading every essay. Top essays from the first round will be sent to a final essay reading session.
  3. At the final essay reading, volunteers will then select 10 essays per grade. Up to 130 essay semi-finalists and their “dads” will be invited to attend the IFI Faces of Fatherhood Celebration.
  4. The “dads” of the essay semi-finalists will receive questionnaires to fill out via the school contact.
  5. The top 13 essay writers will be invited to the IFI Fatherhood Dinner Celebration.



  1. One entry per person.
  2. All essays must be original and created by the student.
  3. All entries become the property of Illinois Fatherhood Initiative (IFI). IFI will not be able to return them.
  4. Entry into the contest transfers the copyright of the essay to IFI and grants IFI permission to reproduce without compensation all or any portion of the essay and response on an unlimited, worldwide basis in its publications and media channels.
  5. When appropriate and with parent/guardian permission, IFI will cite the name of the author(s) if significant portions of a positive essay/response are used. IFI will also change or conceal names to maintain confidentiality if requested.
  6. The contest is open to Illinois students (K-12).