The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge in the Greater Columbus region is “The Very Special Candy” written and illustrated by Amanda Ba and Meghan McCloskey from Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books to help elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. Ba and McCloskey were announced as the winners at an award ceremony at the historic Thurber Center in Columbus on May 21.
> Click here to read "A Very Special Candy"
For Columbus’ inaugural Challenge, B’nai B’rith worked in partnership with McGraw-Hill Education. 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. McGraw-Hill Education’s commitment to partnering with students, educators, administrators and other professionals around the world, to deliver engaging, adaptive and personalized solutions that improve performance and results, makes it the ideal partner for Diverse Minds.
In Ba and McCloskey’s story “The Very Special Candy,” five different friends set out to enter a candy making contest as a team, only to fragment over their differences and disagreements as to who would take home the prize if they won. While attempting to make their own candies individually, they each fail and realize the only way to win is to regroup and utilize each other’s strengths. The friends win the contest with a very special candy and take home a very special prize in a five-seater bike.
The finalists and winners were recognized and congratulated by McGraw-Hill Education Senior Vice President Lisa Carmona and B'nai B'rith International Board of Governors Member Peter Perlman.
At the ceremony, Margaret Leis Hanna, chairwoman of the Executive Board of Ohio Writers’ Guild and longtime member of the National League of American Pen Women, addressed the finalists, speaking of the book production process and highlighting one of her books on diversity.
Second place winner Ava Rigelhaupt from New Albany High School in New Albany, wrote and illustrated “The Red Circle” and will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winners Breanne Johnson and Maddy Toole from Westerville Central High School in Westerville wrote and illustrated “Fostering Fallon” and will share a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, Ba and McCloskey’s teacher who oversaw the creation of their winning book will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. Olentangy Orange 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 now published 29 original children’s books and awarded more than $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: Dan Good, superintendent of Columbus City Schools, Ohio’s largest school district; Tom Katzenmeyer, president and CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council; and Cabot Rea, NBC4 anchor and leader of the news station’s Battle Against Bullying initiative.
The Challenge was also held this year in New York City, the Washington, D.C.-metro area, the Delmarva Peninsula and in southern New Jersey.
In recognition of their generous support, McGraw-Hill Education will be honored with the B’nai B’rith Distinguished Achievement Award on June 4 at the InterContinental New York Times Square Hotel in New York City. The award acknowledges the accomplishments of key community and corporate leaders from around the world and will be accepted by McGraw-Hill Education President and CEO David Levin.