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Teen Writing Contest Rewards Stories About Tolerance with College Scholarships

Two Ursuline Academy students will share a $5,000 college scholarship for their creative and insightful book advocating tolerance and diversity.
The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Writing Challenge in the Delmarva area is “Cami’s Secret Talent,” written by Carly Palkon and illustrated by Alexa Scotto from Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Del. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books to help elementary school children celebrate and appreciate tolerance and diversity. Palkon and Scotto were announced as the winners at an award ceremony at the Delmarva Conference Center on June 5.
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, 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.  

​Palkon and Scotto both have very unique talents; however, they grew up in an environment where they felt the pressure to succeed at everything. They say that kids from all ages, backgrounds, and social classes feel a similar stress that often begins young. Their story underscores the notion that inclusion and diversity extends to an individual’s talents and abilities.

“While we both know that it is important to try hard and get good grades in school, we wanted to emphasize that we all have different talents and that it is okay to not be good at something. This is what makes everyone unique,” Palkon and Scotto said.

“Along with a diverse environment comes the need for tolerance and inclusion, and these ideas are oftentimes harder to embrace. So our efforts in recent years have been to underscore the importance of these pivotal concepts—particularly around bullying, diverse families and religious tolerance,” 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; Enid Wallace-Simms, senior public affairs manager, Delmarva Power and Adjoa Burrowes, award-winning children’s author and illustrator of “Grandma’s Purple Flowers.”
Delmarva Power leaders at the event talked about the significance of this program.
“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, Palkon and Scotto will share 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 Amazon as a free download.

Second place winner Emma Edelin from Fallston High School in Bel Air, Md. wrote and illustrated “Jungle Friends” and received a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winner Kelly Mi from Charter School of Wilmington in Wilmington, Del. wrote and illustrated “A Day with the New Kid” and obtained a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, the teacher who advised Palkon and Scotto, Meg Kane-Smith, received a $1,000 grant to use for classroom or organizational materials. Ursuline Academy received a $500 grant. 

B’nai B’rith has now published 33 original children’s books, 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; Annemarie Hamilton, executive director of the Cecil County Arts Council, Inc.; Patti A. Grimes, executive director of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation; Tim Foxx, CEO of Communities in Schools; Renee Morris, executive director of Nanticoke Health Services 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 fourth year in a row as part of our expanded partnership with Pepco Holdings, which also sponsored Diverse Minds in Washington, D.C., and South Jersey.