Quotes to Live By Essay Contest Helps Youth Reflect on Their Character Back »

Written by Karelyn Farrand (former SDSU Extension Regional 4-H Youth Program Advisor).

Many people have become “a person of character” by guiding their thoughts and actions from the sage advice of tried and true maxims. To learn more about maxims, youth may participate in the SD 4-H Quotes to Live By Essay Contest which youth will select a maxim and write how this essay impacts their life or our world. Additional information can be found in the State 4-H 2017 Official Contestant Packet: Quotes to Live By Essay Contest.
Deadline March 1, 2017.

Educators, Youth Organizers and Volunteers can teach youth about maxims by using the Quotes to Live By Maxims and Educational Guide, which provides Maxim Activity Ideas that follow the experiential learning model.

Exploring Maxims

By definition a maxim is a general truth, fundamental principle or rule of conduct. Often people refer to them as “quotes”, however, a quote by definition is something that a person says or writes that is repeated or used by someone else in another piece of writing or a speech. A quote does not need to be a general truth, fundamental principle or rule of conduct.


  • “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, by Benjamin Franklin, American Author, Scientist and Statesman (1706-1790).
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” The proverb has been traced back to 'Teacher's Manual' (1840) by American educator Thomas H. Palmer and 'The Children of the New Forest' (1847) by English novelist Frederick Mary at (1792-1848). Originally a maxim used to encourage American schoolchildren to do their homework.
  • “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt (American United Nations Diplomat, Humanitarian and First Lady (1933-45), wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US president. 1884-1962).

Using these quotes of wisdom, called maxims, is a wonderful way to stretch youth minds to develop critical thinking. As youth reflect upon the meanings of maxims they will also be clarifying their values. As Educators, Youth Organizers and Volunteers we must challenge youth to apply these maxims to their own lives – with friends and family at home, at school, and at work.

Contest Feedback

Teachers from last year’s contest had this to say about the Quotes to Live By Essay Contest.

  • “…The students grew as individuals when they reflected on their own life and shared that experience with others. My relationship with my students grew stronger too because I learned about their views on life…. I opened up too and shared moments in my life when these maxims impacted me.”  ~ 9th Grade Teacher Tri Valley HS
  • “…The students read through the quotes (maxims) and found ones that related to their life. The students were amazed at the number of quotes (maxims) that were available or that they could relate to. After reading through the essays that the students wrote, I found that they related a lot more to these quotes (maxims) than to the ones that they would have just found on the internet….”  ~ 9th Grade Teacher Hitchcock-Tulare
  •  “The coolest thing happened while working on this contest with my seventh graders! I witnessed sides of my students I had not seen before. I came into a better understanding of their values and what they believe in. . .Very beneficial assignment for myself and my students!” ~ 7th Grade Teacher Lyman MS
  •  “This has been a wonderful opportunity for my son and I to explore and discuss wise and enduring truths using a variety of quotes. (maxims) This essay process inspired a variety of discussions among our family and made a lasting impression on us.. . .” ~ 4th Grade Homeschool Parent     
  • “ . . . All of the students were so positive and hopeful about the outcome of the word if only their maxim was followed. It brought positives and hope!” ~ 4th Grade Teacher Sturgis Elementary
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