The winning entry in this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge in New York City is “Flawless Flowers” written and illustrated by Allyson Gonzalez from Brooklyn Technical High School. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books to help elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. Gonzalez was announced the winner at an award ceremony at the InterContinental New York Times Square Hotel on June 4.
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 Gonzalez’s story “Flawless Flowers,” a bird sits perched on a fence by a field, pondering the ways in which flowers “in their brilliant colors, shapes and variety” are much like human society. The bird chirps that all flowers are the same when they start, but once they sprout, it’s clear they all have different needs, different personalities and they come from different places. The bird says that people shouldn’t fear their differences or their “odd little worries,” because it’s diversity that makes Earth a special place to live.
At the ceremony, the finalists and winners were congratulated by B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and B’nai B’rith Director of Corporate Partnerships Melanie Marconi.
By placing first, Gonzalez receives a $5,000 college 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 published as an e-book and will be available on iTunes and Amazon for free download.
Second place winner Claire Yin from Staten Island Technical High School wrote and illustrated “The White Panda” and received a $2,000 college scholarship. Third place winner Yashoma Boodhan from John Bowne High School in Richmond Hill, Queens, wrote and illustrated “Sara and the Multicultural Extravaganza” and received a $1,000 college scholarship. Dylan Greenberg’s “Sid Doesn’t Feel Like a Boy or a Girl” received Honorable Mention and a $500 scholarship.
In addition, Gonzalez’s teacher who oversaw the creation of their winning book will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. Brooklyn Technical High School will also receive a $500 grant. This is Brooklyn Technical High School’s second winning entry in recent years with Daria Chernysheva’s “A Dragon of Inn” earning first place in the 2012 Challenge.
Over the last nine years, through the Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge, B’nai B’rith has now published 29 original children’s books and awarded more than $250,000 in college scholarships and grants. Thousands of these published books have also been donated to public schools and libraries 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 included: Jon Colman, executive director of the Children’s Book Council; Toby Graff, senior vice president of public affairs at USA Network; and Andrea Louie, executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance.
This year’s New York City contest was generously supported by the ICE NYSE Foundation, the Ludwig Family Foundation and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.
The Challenge was also held this year in Columbus, Ohio, the Washington, D.C.-metro area, the Delmarva Peninsula and in southern New Jersey.
Also at the presentation, McGraw-Hill Education was honored with the B’nai B’rith Distinguished Achievement Award, an acknowledgment of the accomplishments of key community and corporate leaders from around the world. The award was accepted by McGraw-Hill Education President and CEO David Levin. McGraw-Hill was an invaluable partner in organizing Columbus’ inaugural Challenge.