The winning book in this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge in the New York City metropolitan region is “What is Family?” by Ariel Wang from the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies in Manhattan. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books about tolerance and diversity. Wang was announced the winner at an award ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange on June 30.
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 NYSE Euronext Foundation and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, 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 Wang’s story Prince Humphrey the Hedgehog has two mothers, the Queen and the Queen. When a friend questions the validity of having two moms as his family, he embarks on a journey across the kingdom to learn the true meaning of family. Along the way he meets a single mouse father, two snake kings and a turtle couple who adopted a lizard. After seeing all the different types of families in the kingdom, Humphrey confirmed what he knew all along: There are many different ways to be a family, and the true meaning of family is to love and to take care of one another.
At the ceremony, the finalists and winners were congratulated by officials from the NYSE Euronext Foundation and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, as well as B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and B’nai B’rith Director of Corporate Partnerships Melanie Marconi.
“The central mission of this program is to encourage discussions about tolerance in the hope that discriminatory acts that have occurred in the past will not happen in future generations,” Mariaschin said, addressing the finalists and ceremony attendees. “We believe that a key factor to a more tolerant society is access to education—and so it is only appropriate that the prizes for this contest are college scholarships.”
By placing first, Wang—a soon-to-be freshman at Syracuse University—secures 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. She will also have her book published in an e-book format, available soon for free download in the iBooks Store.
Second place winners Yeonkyung Julie Hwang from Bayside High School and Sunyoung Park from Thomas A. Edison Career & Technical Education High School—both schools located in Queens—wrote and illustrated “Oddly the Ostrich” and will a share a $2,000 college scholarship. Third place winners Jonathan Chung and Maria Mo from Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, wrote and illustrated “The Recipe for Friendship” and will share a $1,000 college scholarship. In addition, Wang’s teacher who oversaw the creation of the winning book received a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. The High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies received a $500 grant.
Over the last eight years, B’nai B’rith has published 24 original children’s books and awarded more than $200,000 in college scholarships and grants. Thousands of these published books have also been donated to public schools, libraries and community organizations 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: Mariaschin, the Diversity & Inclusion Counsel of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ; Robin Adelson, executive director of the Children’s Book Council; Toby Graff, senior vice president of public affairs at USA Network; Hannie Chia, coordinator of youth programs at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Naomi Kleinberg, editorial director at Random House and an author of multiple Sesame Street books; Larry J. Krule, president of the Jewish Book Council; Sunny Larson, managing director of the Fund for Public Schools; Andrea Louie, executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance; Rhonda Love, vice president of programming for B’nai B’rith International; Stephen Mooser, president of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators; Natasha Poor, manager of education and outreach programs at the Museum of Tolerance New York; Philip Courtney, CEO of the Urban Arts Partnership; Aimee Horowitz, superintendent of Brooklyn and Staten Island, N.Y., high schools; Diane Matyas, vice president of exhibitions and programs at the Staten Island Museum; and former Diverse Minds winners Ashley Deng (2013) and Kristina Rodulfo (2008).
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