The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Writing Challenge in the Delmarva Peninsula region is “Hearts of Gold,” written by Madeline Smith and illustrated by Morgan LaMonica from Towle Institute in Hockessin, Del. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books to help elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. Smith and LaMonica were announced the winners at an award ceremony at the Delmarva Power Conference Center on June 3.
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 Delmarva Power, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, 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 Smith and LaMonica’s story, “Hearts of Gold,” a little girl visits a popular doll shop, and asks the dollmaker to sell her the most beautiful doll he has. The dollmaker tells the girl that he cannot show her his most beautiful doll, because it doesn’t exist—none of his dolls are any more special or beautiful than the other. The dollmaker shows the little girl what he puts inside his dolls—a gold heart. The little girl quickly realizes that it doesn’t matter what the dolls look like on the outside, but what’s on the inside is what matters.
“Every year we see a remarkable perspective from the young people in our community—and their ongoing commitment to sharing stories about preserving human rights, embracing those who are marginalized and promoting an open-mindedness that we can only hope to see in the rest of the world,” B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark D. Olshan said.
At the ceremony, the finalists and winners were congratulated by Olshan; Gary Stockbridge, president of Delmarva Power, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings; Enid Wallace-Simms, senior public affairs manager, Delmarva Power; and Erika Broadwater, president of the Delmarva Chapter of the National Association of African Americas in Human Resources (NAAAHR), who served as the keynote speaker.
“Our customers and the communities we serve are important to us,” Stockbridge 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 cherish 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, Smith and LaMonica won a $5,000 college scholarship and their 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. Their book will also be accessible in an e-book format and will be available on iTunes and on Amazon as a free download.
Second place winner Elizabeth Schwartz, from Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington, Del., wrote and illustrated “Maya’s Garden,” and will receive a $2,000 college scholarship. Third place winner Siddharth Kailash Gangrene, from the Charter School of Wilmington, in Wilmington, Del., wrote and illustrated “Some Stars,” and will receive a $1,000 college scholarship. In addition, Smith and LaMonica’s teacher who oversaw the creation of their winning book received a $1,000 grant to use for classroom or organizational materials. The Towle Institute 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: Olshan; Stockbridge; Maryland State Sen. Jim Mathias (D-Maryland); Susan S. Bunting, superintendent of Indian River School District; Annemarie Hamilton, executive director of the Cecil County Arts Council, Inc.; Sophia Hanson, general manager of New Castle County; Patti A. Grimes, executive director of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation; and Orrin White, assistant director of community engagement for United Way Delaware.
B’nai B’rith has enjoyed working in conjunction with Delmarva Power for the third year in a row as part of our expanded partnership with Pepco Holdings. Because of this expanded partnership, B’nai B’rith also held the Challenge in Washington, D.C., and South Jersey, thanks to generous support from Pepco and Atlantic City Electric.