The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge is “We Are All Atoms” written and illustrated by Ashley Deng from Staten Island Technical High School in Staten Island, N.Y. 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 10 at an awards ceremony hosted by the New York Stock Exchange.
“It’s great to see Diverse Minds still flourishing seven years into the program,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “It’s amazing how creative these kids are and what they can achieve when their minds are working toward a noble cause.”
Deng’s story “We Are All Atoms” uses a bit of science to explain to young readers that all things in the world are comprised of atoms, including human beings. Because we’re all made of the same thing, there’s no need to put down others for their differences, Deng writes.
“It’s always a great experience judging this contest and it seems every year that these kids outdo themselves,” said B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark D. Olshan, who presented the award to the winner. “By competing in this contest, these students truly are role models for the community. It’s extremely important for younger generations to embrace each others’ differences and these high school students are truly helping out with that by writing these books.”
By placing first, Deng 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.
Deng, the author and illustrator, has always been fascinated by the aesthetics and creativity of art. She hopes to be able to exercise her creativity in every aspect of her life, even as she pursues future plans of being an accountant.
Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Corporate Communications Officer JJ Ko, who served as a contest judge and attended the awards ceremony, told the student contestants that her organization was drawn to the Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge because it not only impacts their generation, but it also supports works of writing that will impact the next generation.
Second place winner Lucian Stern from The Beacon School in New York City, wrote and illustrated “Foond and the Tree People” and will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winners Anastasia Hayes and Marguerite Coles from Curtis High School in New York City, wrote and illustrated “Show and Tell” and will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
In addition, Deng’s teacher Elizabeth Murphy, who oversaw the creation of the winning book, will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. Staten Island Technical High School will receive a $500 grant.
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 New York City 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 NYSE Euronext Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Leibowitz; USA Network Senior Vice President Toby Graff; and New York Knicks General Manager Glen Grunwald. B’nai B’rith is pleased to work in partnership with USA Network/NBCUniversal, the NYSE Euronext Foundation and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ for the 2012-2013 contest in New York City.
The top-five books from this year’s contest can be read here.