A Brooklyn high school student took first prize in the 2012 B’nai B’rith International Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge for the book “A Dragon of Inn.” As first place winner, Daria Chernysheva, a student at Brooklyn Technical High School, receives a $5,000 college scholarship and will have her book professionally published.
In the story, which Chernysheva wrote and illustrated, the Isle of Inn is inhabited by dragons from four different tribes—Moon, Sun, Wind and Water. They don’t interact or trade due to a dispute generations ago. Hallie the dragon is the only one who does not belong to a tribe. When the Great Storm comes, Hallie convinces the tribes to help each other and share their various resources. In the end, the tribes reconnect and are once again happy. As Hallie says, “Alone, your gifts were only so powerful. Together, they were mighty.”
At the award ceremony, B’nai B’rith International also honored Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, for her commitment to initiatives confronting racism and bigotry. Toby Graff, senior vice president of USA Networks, accepted the award on Hammer’s behalf.
The second place award went to Yashoda Persaud from Queens High School who wrote “Color Coded.” The book was illustrated by classmate Angela Chen. The pair took home a $2,000 scholarship. Third place went to Iris Dai of Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, N.Y., for her book “Unmasked.” Dai earned a $1,000 scholarship.
In addition, Timothy Ree, the teacher who oversaw the creation of “A Dragon Inn” earned a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials, and Brooklyn Technical High School also took home a $500 grant.
“These students have demonstrated that they recognize and appreciate the multicultural and diverse world we live in,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. The contest—now in its sixth year—challenges teens to write and illustrate children’s books that explain diversity and tolerance to elementary school-aged children. This education and awareness initiative was created in conjunction with B’nai B’rith programs that promote tolerance and communicate a message of equality. The contest aims to enlighten, inspire and educate America's young people and their families in an effort to destroy prejudices and strengthen the future of our youth.
The winners were announced May 31 at the New York Stock Exchange. A panel of judges from the New York worlds of education, the arts and government, as well as the executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, reviewed the submissions and selected the winners.
“I had the great honor of reading all of these creative and meaningful submissions. It is clear that acceptance and tolerance are already at the core of these students’ lives,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “These authors succeeded in bringing B’nai B’rith’s core values and ideals to life.”
The New York Stock Exchange Foundation and the USA Network’s Characters Unite campaign, two organizations that are dedicated to promoting diversity, tolerance and acceptance, generously provided the philanthropic support necessary for B’nai B’rith to again offer the program in New York City.
For photos from the event, click here.