The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Writing Challenge in South Jersey is “The Legend of Firemarth,” written and illustrated by Samson Beaver from Paulsboro High School in Paulsboro, N.J. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books to help elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. Beaver was announced the winner at an award ceremony at Atlantic City Electric Headquarters on June 2.
This education and awareness initiative was created as part of B’nai B’rith programming that promotes tolerance and communicates a message of equality among all citizens. Funded by Atlantic City Electric, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, the contest aims to enlighten, inspire and educate America's young people and their families in an effort to eradicate prejudices and strengthen ties among today’s youth.
In the wonderfully illustrated “The Legend of Firemarth,” Adelina runs away from her father’s kingdom, Firemarth, because he locked up all of the beasts just because they are different. Not long after, Adelina befriended a friendly dragon, who scares her at first, but Adelina sees the kindness in his eyes. Moments later, Adelina’s father, the king, approaches and tries to slay the dragon. The king falls of a cliff, but is saved by the dragon, and the king learns how wrong he has been—that you shouldn’t be mean or disrespectful to someone just because they’re different.
“Every year we see a remarkable perspective from the young people in our community—and their ongoing commitment to sharing stories about preserving human rights, embracing those who are marginalized and promoting an open-mindedness that we can only hope to see in the rest of the world,” B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark D. Olshan said.
At the ceremony, the finalists and winners were congratulated by Olshan; Vince Maione, president of Atlantic City Electric, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings; Susan Coan, region vice president of Atlantic City Electric; and award-winning children’s author Earl B. Lewis, who was the keynote speaker.
“The people and communities we serve are important to us,” Maione said. “We strive to make a difference in the lives of others by providing safe and reliable service to our customers, helping to protect the environment and supporting various initiatives within our communities. We look forward to continuing to actively participate in our communities today and for years to come.”
By placing first, Beaver won a $5,000 college scholarship and his book has been professionally published. It will be distributed to local schools, libraries and community organizations, as well as to the annual TODAY Show Holiday Toy and Gift Drive. His book will also be accessible in an e-book format and will be available on iTunes and on Amazon as a free download.
Second place winner Margaret Elizabeth Belskis from Cherokee High School, Marlton, N.J. wrote and illustrated “The Girl with the Tail,” and will receive a $2,000 college scholarship. Third place winner Laurianne Panico from Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, N.J. wrote and illustrated “My Hero,” and will obtain a $1,000 college scholarship. In addition, Beaver’s teacher who oversaw the creation of the winning book will receive a $1,000 grant to use for classroom or organizational materials. Paulsboro High School will also receive a $500 grant.
The Challenge is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and including this year’s contest, B’nai B’rith has now published 33 original children’s books, in two different languages (English and Spanish), awarded more than $300,000 in college scholarships and grants and donated more than 39,000 books to public schools, libraries and community organizations across the country.
A diverse panel of judges from the worlds of education, the arts, business and government, along with B’nai B’rith International leaders, reviewed the submissions and selected the winners. Judges this year included Olshan; Maione; Coan; Frank X. Balles, sheriff of Atlantic County; Fola Adebi, executive director of Wow! Science Camp; Albert B. Kelly, mayor of the city of Bridgeton; and Richard Stepura, interim executive superintendent of Cape May and Cumberland County schools.
B’nai B’rith has enjoyed working in conjunction with Atlantic City Electric in South Jersey for the third year in a row as a part of our expanded partnership with Pepco Holdings. Because of this expanded partnership, B’nai B’rith also held the contest in Washington, D.C., and in the Delmarva Peninsula, thanks to generous support from Pepco and Delmarva Power.