The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge in the Delmarva Peninsula region is “Kira Kiwi, How Will School Be?” written and illustrated by Monica Keszler from Charter School of Wilmington, in Wilmington, 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. Keszler was announced the winner at an award ceremony at the Delmarva Power Conference Center on May 27.
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 Kezler’s story “Kira the Kiwi, How Will School Be?,” Kira the kiwi moves to the United States and finds she is a very different species of bird than the rest of her new classmates. Though she’s accepted by the other birds, Kira eventually visits the principal to ask that the school change its brochure to reflect the diversity of the school.
At the ceremony, the finalists and winners were congratulated by Gary Stockbridge, president of Delmarva Power, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc., John Allen, Jr., vice president of Delmarva Power 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,” 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 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, Keszler 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 winner Ashley Williams from Padua Academy in Wilmington, Del., wrote and illustrated “Amber the Lonely Witch” and will receive share a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winner Zachary Edward Varrato, from Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown, Del., wrote and illustrated “The Mellow Fellow Who Played the Cello” and will receive a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, Keszler’s teacher who oversaw the creation of their winning book will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. Charter School of Wilmington 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 include: Jim Mathias, Maryland state senator; Jim Ireton, mayor of Salisbury, Md.; Susan S. Bunting, superintendent of Indian River School District; Anthony S. Goode, fire chief of the Wilmington Fire Department; Penrose Hollins, New Castle County councilman; and Heather Morrissey, executive director of the Cecil County Art Council.
B’nai B’rith has enjoyed working in conjunction with Delmarva Power as a part of our expanded partnership with Pepco Holdings Inc. Because of this expanded partnership, B’nai B’rith also held the Challenge in Washington, D.C., and in southern New Jersey, thanks to generous support from Pepco and Atlantic City Electric.