The contest challenges teens to write and illustrate children’s books that explain diversity and tolerance to elementary school-aged children. This education and awareness initiative was created in conjunction with B’nai B’rith programs that promote tolerance and communicate a message of equality. The contest aims to enlighten, inspire and educate America's young people and their families in an effort to destroy prejudices and strengthen the future of our youth.
The winners were announced May 31 at the National Civil Rights Museum.
A panel of judges from B’nai B’rith International, as well as the Memphis worlds of education, the arts and government reviewed the submissions and selected the winners. Taking part in the award ceremony: Peggy Seessel, ArtsMemphis and Karen Woodard, director, Middle & Secondary Education, Shelby County Schools. Beanie Self from Rep. Steve Cohen’s office read a proclamation from the congressman. Teachers and principals from five local schools also took part.
Molly Brakha and Shoshana Somer, seniors at Margolin Hebrew Academy earned second place for “World of Color,” and took home a $2,000 scholarship.
Third place went to the writer/illustrator team of Eric Ruleman and Brett Wagner, juniors from Germantown High School for their work, “Pedro at the Plate.” They received a $1,000 scholarship. This was their second effort—they took second prize last year.
In addition, Dawn Kelso, the teacher who oversaw the creation of ”The Peanut Butter Bee” earned a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials, and Christian Brothers High School also received a $500 grant.
“All of the book entries truly demonstrate that these kids aren’t just waiting for the world to change, they are attempting to make it happen,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
“These books exemplify the best hope for positive change that the next generation can bring,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Tolerance and acceptance have always been at the heart of B’nai B’rith International. The contest entrants took these values and brought them to life.”
B’nai B’rith is pleased to work in partnership with The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc., whose grant funding made possible the launch of the Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge in Shelby County.
The contest, which is also held this year in New York, is now in its fifth year. This is the second time the contest was offered in Memphis.
Additional program information can be found at www.bnaibrith.org/diverseminds.