July 19, 2019

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Teen wins writing contest

Student awarded $3,000 scholarship, book published

Springs Christian Academy grade 11 student Varina Penner, age 16, won first prize in B’nai Brith’s Diverse Minds Competition, open to high school students across Manitoba, for her book “A Bear Like Me” on Wednesday.

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Springs Christian Academy grade 11 student Varina Penner, age 16, won first prize in B’nai Brith’s Diverse Minds Competition, open to high school students across Manitoba, for her book “A Bear Like Me” on Wednesday.

Arriving at the Diverse Minds creative writing competition award ceremony as a Grade 12 student, Varina Penner left with the additional titles of role model, published author and winner.

Penner, a Springs Christian Academy student, emerged Wednesday night from a list of 10 finalists to claim the B’nai Brith Canada event’s first prize: a $3,000 scholarship and the publishing of her book, A Bear Like Me.

The competition saw more than 50 students in grades 9-12 from across Manitoba each create an original children’s book for early-years readers (kindergarten to Grade 5). The students submitted their books to be reviewed by a panel of judges; the winner was announced Wednesday.

B’nai Brith, an international non-profit organization whose Canadian head office is in Winnipeg, has already published 1,000 hardcover copies of A Bear Like Me, which will be distributed free of charge to Manitoba schools, libraries, community organizations and, by request, members of the public.

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Arriving at the Diverse Minds creative writing competition award ceremony as a Grade 12 student, Varina Penner left with the additional titles of role model, published author and winner.

Penner, a Springs Christian Academy student, emerged Wednesday night from a list of 10 finalists to claim the B’nai Brith Canada event’s first prize: a $3,000 scholarship and the publishing of her book, A Bear Like Me.

The competition saw more than 50 students in grades 9-12 from across Manitoba each create an original children’s book for early-years readers (kindergarten to Grade 5). The students submitted their books to be reviewed by a panel of judges; the winner was announced Wednesday.

B’nai Brith, an international non-profit organization whose Canadian head office is in Winnipeg, has already published 1,000 hardcover copies of A Bear Like Me, which will be distributed free of charge to Manitoba schools, libraries, community organizations and, by request, members of the public.

Adriana Glikman, B’nai Brith Canada program co-ordinator, said the young writers produced stories children can identify with, teach an important lesson of human rights and show how they affect everyday life.

"It’s so motivating for the students and so amazing that they got engaged in this and they participated. There’s so much potential in Manitoba," Glikman said. "The standards were really high, the bar was high, because we had great, great books.

"This was the pilot project, so it was just in Manitoba, but next year it’s going to be in four cities in Canada, so we are going national with this program. It was a great success, and we are very happy with the results and the students’ involvement. That was amazing for us."

Glikman said B’nai Brith started the competition to involve young people’s voices in highlighting its mandate of promoting human rights, tolerance and diversity.

Gray Academy of Jewish Education student Nicole Knopfholz Daitschman (centre) won third prize for her book, If Everyone Was The Same.</p>

Gray Academy of Jewish Education student Nicole Knopfholz Daitschman (centre) won third prize for her book, If Everyone Was The Same.

"We wanted to promote these values and have human rights role models in our communities," she said.

"It’s an opportunity for older students to pass the torch to younger generations and promote these values in the younger generations. Keeping our youth involved is important in these kind of projects."

At Wednesday’s ceremony, Penner stepped into her role as a professional writer, reading her book aloud to the audience and later sitting at a table to autograph copies.

"It’s a beautiful book. A Bear Like Me is the story of a young brown bear called Bruno who learns to accept others and be respectful to everyone," Glikman said.

"By the end of the story, Bruno understands that there are many types of bears, but they’re all equal.

"Her book is meant to convey that people in general are all unique, but it is important that we all accept each other regardless of how different we are or whether we agree with each other. She did a great job."

The contest requirements were for senior-years students, individually or in pairs, to write a children’s book of 16-24 pages using original characters and thoughtful illustrations.

The authors needed to show "how tolerance, diversity, empathy and inclusion can improve our world, and create innovative ways to share these ideas with elementary-aged children through a children’s book."

There were scholarship awards of $1,500 and $500 for the second- and third-place entries. The winner’s school and supervising teacher were each presented with $500.

Judges for the competition included community leaders such as Free Press editor Paul Samyn, Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth, radio personality Ace Burpee and B’nai Brith Canada chief executive officer Michael Mostyn.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Ashley Prest

Ashley Prest
Reporter

Ashley works the general assignment beat.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at 10:12 PM CDT: Replaces corrupt image

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