The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Writing Challenge in the New York area is “From the Heart” written and illustrated by Sylvia Yu from Stuyvesant High School in New York. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books to help elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. Yu was announced the winner on June 21.
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. 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 Yu’s story, “From the Heart” a classroom of bears worry about giving out cards on Valentine’s Day. Some of the bears are concerned they can’t give a card to someone of the same gender, or if they have a different ethnicity or if they’re disabled. Their teacher, Ms. Frost, tells her students that “love is blind—gender, race and imperfections are not important. What matters the most is that you love them for their heart.”
Yu was congratulated by B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and B’nai B’rith Director of Corporate Partnerships Melanie Marconi.
“Originally the Challenge was created with the concept that we must encourage and celebrate diversity — diversity in our communities, in our workplaces, in our schools. And 10 years later, I think we can see in society that there is a richer diversity than ever before,” Mariaschin said.
By placing first, Yu won 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. Her book will also be accessible in an e-book format and will be available on iTunes and Amazon as a free download.
Second place winners Lydia Jang and Bailey Chan from Townsend Harris High School in Queens, N.Y. wrote and illustrated “Picnic Day” and received a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winner Nadia Kossman also from Townsend Harris High School wrote and illustrated “The Story of Malina” and obtained a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, Yu’s teacher who oversaw the creation of her winning book received a $1,000 grant to use for classroom or organizational materials. Stuyvesant High School received a $500 grant.
The Challenge is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and including this year’s contest, B’nai B’rith has now published 33 original children’s books, in two different languages (English and Spanish), awarded more than $300,000 in college scholarships and grants and donated more than 39,000 books to public schools, libraries and community organizations across 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: Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith International vice president of programming; Lawrence J. Krule, president of the Jewish Book Council; Kristina Rodulfo, associate editor of ELLE.com and 2008 winner of Diverse Minds; Naomi Kleinberg, editorial director of licensed publishing at Random House Children’s Books; Andrea Louie, executive director of Asian American Arts Alliance; Josalyn Moran, interim executive director of Children’s Book Council; Stacey Eliuk, program manager of the Museum of Tolerance New York; and Ryan John Koch, director of New York Public and International Affairs at LDS church.
This year’s New York City contest was generously supported by the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.
Click here to read the winning book.