The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge in the D.C.-metro area is “Happy Birthday!” written and illustrated by Jean-Young Kim from Poolesville High School in Germantown, Md. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books to help elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. Kim was announced the winner at an award ceremony at The Pepco Edison Place Gallery on May 28.
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 Pepco, 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.
> Click here to read "Happy Birthday!" and the other placing entries
In Kim’s story “Happy Birthday!” Henry wakes up on the eve of his 10th birthday excited, yet, unsure as to how he’ll celebrate the big day. Henry goes to school and changes his birthday plans over and over after hearing how his classmates celebrate their birthdays across a wide range of cultures. At the end of the day, Henry is ultimately left confused, wondering if he’d celebrate his birthday at all. But his friends come through and surprise Henry with a perfect, multicultural birthday party.
At the ceremony, the finalists and winners were congratulated by Joe Rigby, chairman, president and CEO of Pepco Holdings Inc., and Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International.
“I’ve traveled a great deal on behalf of B’nai B’rith. I’ve met with people of all cultures and all beliefs. These travels have provided a true testament to the benefits of diversity. But I’ve personally witnessed what can happen when intolerance prevails. That’s why B’nai B’rith has made it a priority to teach tolerance to our nation’s young people in the hope that discriminatory acts that have occurred in the past and are still happening today will not happen in future generations,” B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “Our efforts to promote tolerance is not merely a Jewish cause, it’s a topic of concern to all of our nation’s citizens. Where intolerance exists, whether it’s through genocide, or a slur at school, we’re all affected.”
“I don’t think you have to look that far around us, to understand the issues that separate us, they don’t need to separate us. If you understand the value of the differences, they can actually start to bring us together,” Rigby said. “A lot of issues we face in the world are based in intolerance. And this is an important step to work together with young people to bring about a generation of incredible tolerance and to bring the world into a better place.”
At the ceremony, New York Times Best Selling Author Carolyn Parkhurst addressed the finalists, offering advice and encouragement to the young storywriters, as well sharing her own personal path to becoming a published author that began at the age of 15.
She concluded her remarks to the finalists by saying: “But the best parts of writing are the parts that no one can teach you because you have to learn them for yourself. There’s the feeling that you get when you finally get it right. When everything clicks and it feels like your words have caught fire on the page. There’s the knowledge that the stories you have to tell are different from the stories that anyone else in the world can tell and that you are the right one to tell them. And t and there’s the understanding that this is yours. The talent that you have, no one else can take that away from you and it’s been inside of you the whole time.”
By placing first, Kim secures a $5,000 scholarship and her 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. Her book will also be published as an e-book and will be available on iTunes and Amazon for free download.
Second place winners Morgan Isabella from James Hubert Blake High School, and Katherine Lentz and Justin Warring from Sandy Springs Friends School wrote and illustrated “A Boy Named Timmy” and will share a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winners Jenna Ramirez and Stacy Shin from James Hubert Blake High School wrote and illustrated “Fruits and Veggies and Veggies and Fruits” and will share a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, Kim’s teacher who oversaw the creation of their winning book will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. Poolesville High School will also receive a $500 grant.
Over the last nine years, through the Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge, B’nai B’rith has published 28 original children’s books and awarded nearly $200,000 in college scholarships and grants. Thousands of these published books have also been donated to public schools and libraries around 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 include: Vince Fiduccia, state director of Best Buddies Maryland; Jacqueline Jules, author and poet; Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of Reading is Fundamental; and Lissa Rosenthal-Yoffe, executive director of the DC Arts & Humanities Education Collaborative.
B’nai B’rith is pleased to work in partnership again with Pepco for the D.C. area Challenge. We are also excited that we’ve continued our partnership with Pepco Holdings Inc. to work with Atlantic City Electric and Delmarva Power, holding contests for a second year for students in southern New Jersey and the Delmarva Peninsula.