Two Olentangy Orange High School students are the winners of the Columbus region's inaugural Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge.

Two Olentangy Orange High School students are the winners of the Columbus region's inaugural Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge.

The Very Special Candy was written and illustrated by Amanda Ba and Meghan McCloskey.

The contest challenges high school students to write and illustrate a children's book that helps elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. Ba and McCloskey were announced the winners at a May 21 award ceremony at the Thurber Center in Columbus.

In the story, five friends enter a candy-making contest, only to argue over their differences. After each tries and fails to make candies individually, they realize the only way to win is to reunite and use each person's strengths. The friends win the contest and the prize -- a five-seat bike.

Ba and McCloskey will share a $5,000 scholarship. Their book has been professionally published and will be distributed to area schools, libraries and community organizations, as well as to the annual Today Show Holiday Toy and Gift Drive. It also will be published as an e-book and will be available on iTunes and Amazon for free download.

Second-place winner Ava Rigelhaupt of New Albany High School wrote and illustrated The Red Circle. She will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Third-place winners Breanne Johnson and Maddy Toole of Westerville Central High School wrote and illustrated Fostering Falcon and will share a $1,000 scholarship.

The teacher who oversaw Ba and McCloskey's submission will receive a $500 stipend for classroom or organizational materials. Olentangy OrangeHigh School also will receive a $500 grant.

B'nai B'rith and McGraw-Hill Education worked together to present this first regional contest, created as part of B'nai B'rith commitment to partner with students, educators, administrators and others to deliver engaging, adaptive and personalized solutions that improve performance and results.

The finalists and winners were announced by McGraw-Hill Education Senior Vice President Lisa Carmona and B'nai B'rith International Board of Governors member Peter Perlman.

Over the last nine years, through the Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge, B'nai B'rith has published 25 original children's books and awarded nearly $200,000 in college scholarships and grants. Thousands of these books have been donated to public schools and libraries around the country.

A diverse panel of judges reviewed the submissions and selected the winners. Judges this year included Dan Good, superintendent of Columbus City Schools; Tom Katzenmeyer, president and CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council; and Cabot Rea, NBC4 anchor and leader of the news station's Battle Against Bullying initiative.

The writing challenge also was held this year in New York City, the Washington, D.C., metro area, the Delmarva Peninsula; and in southern New Jersey.