The winning book in this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge in southern New Jersey is “If No One Was Different” written and illustrated by Mary Kate Donahue from Cherokee High School in Marlton, 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. Donahue was announced the winner at an award ceremony at Stockton College in the Kramer Hall Art Gallery on May 29.
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 Holdings Inc. (PHI), 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 “If No One Was Different,” Donahue shows off her illustrative skills to paint a bland world inhabited by people who are all the same. In the second half of the book, Donahue emphasizes how this is impossible in a world with seven billion people and to embrace what makes you, you.
At the ceremony, the finalists and winners were congratulated by Vince Maione, president of Atlantic City Electric, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc., and Mark D. Olshan, associate executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International.
“Our customers and the communities we serve are important to us,” Maione said. “We constantly strive to empower individuals through creativity and diversity in addition to providing safe and reliable service to our customers, help to protect the environment and support various initiatives within our region. We value opportunities like the one presented by B’nai B’rith and look forward to continuing to build positive relationships and energize those we proudly serve.”
By placing first, Donahue 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. She will also have her book published in an e-book format, available for free download in the iBooks Store.
Second place winners Alexandra Franciosa and Samantha Zanetti from Paul VI High School in West Berlin wrote and illustrated “If Someone Buys You a Cupcake” and will share a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winners Breanna Palzer and Charlie Wiggins from Ocean City High School in Ocean City wrote and illustrated “Plain Jane” and will share a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, Donahue’s teacher who oversaw the creation of the winning book will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. Cherokee High School will also receive a $500 grant.
Over the last seven years, B’nai B’rith has published 20 original children’s books and awarded more than $165,000 in college scholarships and grants. Thousands of these published books have also been donated to public schools, libraries and Boys & Girls Clubs 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 included: Atlantic City Electric’s Maione; Celeste M. Riley, New Jersey state assemblywoman; DiAnne C. Gove, New Jersey state assemblywoman; Frank X. Balles, Atlantic County sheriff; Raymond Yannuzzi, Camden County College president; and Shannon Cuttle, Garden State Equality managing director of youth policy and anti-bullying initiatives.
B’nai B’rith has enjoyed working in conjunction with Atlantic City Electric in southern New Jersey as a part of our expanded partnership with Pepco Holdings Inc. 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.