D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray Served As a Judge
The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge is “Pepper the Porcupine and the Big Parade” written by Jourdan Lewanda and illustrated by Andrew Latona, both graduating seniors at James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, 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. The winning book was announced the evening of June 6 at the PEPCO Edison Place Gallery.
“It’s an honor to continue Diverse Minds into its 7th year and to see all of the great things that come out of this program,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The work these kids do is outstanding and I never tire of seeing the positive impact that comes from distributing these books in the community.”
In Lewanda and Latona’s story “Pepper the Porcupine and the Big Parade,” Pepper the porcupine wants to participate in his town's parade band, but doesn't have much talent for playing an instrument. After searching for his place to fit in, he finds his unique talent as the band leader.
Pepco Holdings President and CEO Joseph Rigby, who served as a judge, told the finalists how impressed he was with their efforts and noted how important their messages of tolerance are: “The notion of diversity is one of our five values.”
“As a judge of this contest, every year I’m more and more amazed at the stories and illustrations that we receive,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who served as a judge and presented the award to the winners. “It’s encouraging, and also refreshing, to see today’s youth committed to making a change in the world and helping younger generations celebrate acceptance of others.”
The winners earn a $5,000 college scholarship and their book has been professionally published. In the coming weeks, it will be distributed to local schools and libraries. It will also be published in an e-book format, available for free download.
Sybille Jagusch, chief of the Children’s Literature Center at the Library of Congress and also a contest judge, addressed the finalists, offering practical advice and a plea:. “Consider making more books!” Other tips she offered all of the finalists who may be considering writing careers: “Your story should have feelings,” as well as “let your heart speak.”
Lewanda, the winning book’s author, is a distinguished student, excelling both academically and artistically. She earned the AP Scholar with Distinction award from the College Board, as well as various recognitions for her work as an actress, including the Superintendent’s Award for Theatre from Montgomery County Public Schools, and the Award of Excellence in the Arts from the National Society of Arts and Letters and the Kennedy Center. When she begins college in the fall, she hopes to pursue musical theatre or acting, along with a minor in English.
Latona, the winning book’s illustrator, is also an excellent student, thriving in AP English, art and music classes. He is the leader of the Eubie Blake Jazz Quintet and also serves as a captain of his school’s swim team. Latona has always enjoyed drawing and painting, and he hopes to pursue those passions in the future.
Second place winners David Ng and Kayla Trinh from Damascus High School in Damascus, Md., wrote and illustrated “Birds in Blue” and will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winners Chala A. M. Tshitundu and Rebecca H. Hamilton-Levi, from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, wrote and illustrated “Everyone is Royal” and will receive a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, Lewanda and Latona’s teacher Amy Branson, who oversaw the creation of their winning book, will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. James Hubert Blake High School will receive a $500 grant.
The 10 finalists in the contest hailed from cities all across the region including students from Chevy Chase, Clarksburg, Damascus, North Potomac, Olney and Silver Spring in Maryland, as well as Arlington, Va., and Washington, D.C.
This education and awareness initiative was created in conjunction with B’nai B’rith programs that promote tolerance and communicate a message of equality among all citizens. The contest aims to enlighten, inspire and educate America's young people and their families in an effort to abolish prejudices and strengthen ties among today’s youth.
A diverse panel of judges from the Washington, D.C. worlds of education, the arts, business and government, along with B’nai B’rith International leaders, reviewed the submissions and selected the finalists and winner. The judges include District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Pepco Holdings President and CEO Joseph Rigby and Sybille Jagusch, chief of the Children’s Literature Center at the Library of Congress,. B’nai B’rith is pleased to work in partnership with PEPCO for the 2012-2013 Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge.
The top-five books from this year’s contest can be read here.