A school-age girl paints a cheerful picture on paper clipped to an easel

Art & Essay Contest

View 2024 Submissions

Giving Military Children a Voice

The annual Armed Services YMCA Art & Essay Contest gives military children a voice. It also serves as a reminder of the sacrifices military children, service members, and their families make for our country.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Art and Essay contest is open to children of currently serving military (active duty, National Guard, or reserves), disabled veterans, and retired service members (with 20+ years of service).

Artwork submissions are limited to children in grades 1 through 6.

Essay submissions are open to children in grades 1 through 12.

The ASYMCA uses an online submission process. Eligible participants can click the link to “Submit an Entry.” The entry form is in two parts: the first part collects the child’s information and includes a button to upload their submission; the second part collects information about their military sponsor.

During the submission period, you will find the link to the submission form at the top and bottom of this webpage.

Since all artwork will be submitted through an online portal, you will need to photograph or scan the art. This means there are no limitations on the size or type of art. Children can use any artistic medium or mix mediums to create unique works. Art can be flat, dimensional, or sculptural. Your child is limited only by their imagination and the theme provided!

Essays can be no more than 3000 characters (approximately 500 words or 1 page of typed text), must be related to the theme provided, and submitted using the field provided in the form. Outside these parameters, children have creative license to express themselves using the written word. Poetry, narratives, short stories, or traditional essays are all wonderful ways to tell a story.

As we are expecting an increased volume of submissions, art or written works that do not fit the theme presented for this contest will be ineligible and screened out prior to judging.

For artwork, you can upload a png or jpeg file.

No PDF files, please.

The Armed Services YMCA will award an iPad to one child from each category and age range:

  • Art, Age 6-7
  • Art, Age 8-9
  • Art, Age 10-12
  • Essay, Age 6-7
  • Essay, Age 8-9
  • Essay, Age 10-12
  • Essay, Age 13-14
  • Essay, Age 15-16
  • Essay, Age 17-18

We’re happy to answer any questions you might have! You can email us here if you need more information or clarification on the information provided.

2024 Program Overview

The 2024 annual contest submission period opens February 9, and runs through April 30. Winners will be announced at the end of April in honor of the Month of the Military Child. Entries may be submitted from military children living in the U.S. and abroad.

2024 Theme: “Courage”

Whether it’s the service member, military spouse, or military child, courage is one of the virtues that shapes military life. How has it shaped yours? 

Art Contest

The art contest promotes art among military children in grades 1–6 of active duty, disabled, or retired members of the Armed Services, National Guard, or Reserves.

Essay Contest

The contest encourages military children to use creative writing to express themselves. The essay contest is open to military children in grades 1–12 of active duty, disabled, or retired members of the Armed Services, National Guard, or Reserves.

2025 Art & Essay Contest

The 2025 submission period will from January 6 through March 17, 2025. For 2025, our theme will be "The Roots of Resiliency." Please check back in January 2025 for updated submission information.

View All 2024 Creative Works

2023 Contest Winners

The Art Contest is specifically for children grades 1-6. Winners were selected based on age range and received an Apple iPad tablet. The theme for 2024 was “Courage.”


Art Category

  • Art, Age 6-7: Cecelia Tessendorf, Air Force
  • Art, Age 8-9: Charlotte Smith, Marine Corps
  • Art, Age 10-12: Evelyn Krebs, Marine Corps


Honorable Mention:

  • Magnolia Saum, Air Force

Children grades 1-12 are encouraged to participate in the Essay Contest. Winners were selected based on age ranges, and received an Apple iPad tablet. The theme for 2024 was “Courage.”


Essay Category

  • Essay, Age 6-7: Atimaopa-Lei Joycelynn Mago, Army
  • Essay, Age 8-9: Josephine Frander, Air Force
  • Essay, Age 10-12: Genevieve Frander, Air Force
  • Essay, Age 13-14: Wyatt Nicol, Marine Corps
  • Essay, Age 15-16: Abigail Transfiguracion, Air Force
  • Essay, Age 17-18: Olivia Crane, Navy

2023 Creative Submissions

2024 Winner’s Catalog is Coming Soon!

2023 Winners' Submissions

Download the booklet of this year's Art & Essay Winners' submissions

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2023 All Participants' Submissions

Download the complete booklet of all this year's Art & Essay submissions

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