Panel of Judges

We are honored to have a truly amazing group of judges this year. Learn more about them here.


 
If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
— Toni Morrison
  Sharon G. Flake  is an American writer of young adult literature. Flake's bestselling debut novel,  The Skin I’m In,  received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent and the YWCA Racial Justice Award and was named a New York Public Library Top Ten Book for Teens, a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, among other awards. Flake’s novels and short stories deal with the struggles of teenagers and young people of color and have received praise for their honest and urgent portrayals of complex issues and themes.  Flake was born in Philadelphia. She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Sharon G. Flake is an American writer of young adult literature. Flake's bestselling debut novel, The Skin I’m In, received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent and the YWCA Racial Justice Award and was named a New York Public Library Top Ten Book for Teens, a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, among other awards. Flake’s novels and short stories deal with the struggles of teenagers and young people of color and have received praise for their honest and urgent portrayals of complex issues and themes.  Flake was born in Philadelphia. She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

  Natalia Sylvester  is the author of the novels  Chasing the Sun  and  Everyone Knows You Go Home . She studied Creative Writing at the University of Miami and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Natalia's articles have appeared in Latina Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Austin American-Statesman, andNBCLatino.com. Born in Lima, Peru, she came to the U.S. at age four and spent time in South Florida, Central Florida, and the Rio Grande Valley before her family set roots in Miami. She now lives and works in Texas.

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novels Chasing the Sun and Everyone Knows You Go Home. She studied Creative Writing at the University of Miami and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Natalia's articles have appeared in Latina Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Austin American-Statesman, andNBCLatino.com. Born in Lima, Peru, she came to the U.S. at age four and spent time in South Florida, Central Florida, and the Rio Grande Valley before her family set roots in Miami. She now lives and works in Texas.

  Colin Seale  is the Founder and CEO of  ThinkLaw –   an organization dedicated to helping educators teach critical thinking to students. Tackling inequity hands-on has always been personal to Colin, because the amazing educational opportunities he received in gifted and talented courses and an exclusive specialized high school despite his underprivileged background growing up in Brooklyn, NY made him an exception to a painfully unjust rule.  Colin has always dreamed of a world where stories like his were no longer the exception, but instead, all students had an equal shot at being exceptional. Colin created thinkLaw to give all students access to the type of game-changing critical thinking education they need to not only fully understand the way the world is, but to question it and imagine the way the world ought to be. 

Colin Seale is the Founder and CEO of ThinkLaw –  an organization dedicated to helping educators teach critical thinking to students. Tackling inequity hands-on has always been personal to Colin, because the amazing educational opportunities he received in gifted and talented courses and an exclusive specialized high school despite his underprivileged background growing up in Brooklyn, NY made him an exception to a painfully unjust rule.  Colin has always dreamed of a world where stories like his were no longer the exception, but instead, all students had an equal shot at being exceptional. Colin created thinkLaw to give all students access to the type of game-changing critical thinking education they need to not only fully understand the way the world is, but to question it and imagine the way the world ought to be. 

  Lauryn Oates  is a women’s human rights activist focused on education in conflict zones. Lauryn is currently Programs Director with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, managing education projects including teacher training, village libraries, literacy classes, schools and training programs, and is the founder of the Darakht-e Danesh Digital Library, a repository of open educational resources in languages spoken in Afghanistan. She did her doctoral research in northern Uganda, working with teachers there to create local language educational materials for their classrooms through digital technology. She holds a BA in international development (McGill University), an MA in human security (Royal Roads University) and a PhD in language and literacy education (University of British Columbia). She has taught graduate students at the School of Humanitarian Studies at Royal Roads University since 2014.

Lauryn Oates is a women’s human rights activist focused on education in conflict zones. Lauryn is currently Programs Director with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, managing education projects including teacher training, village libraries, literacy classes, schools and training programs, and is the founder of the Darakht-e Danesh Digital Library, a repository of open educational resources in languages spoken in Afghanistan. She did her doctoral research in northern Uganda, working with teachers there to create local language educational materials for their classrooms through digital technology. She holds a BA in international development (McGill University), an MA in human security (Royal Roads University) and a PhD in language and literacy education (University of British Columbia). She has taught graduate students at the School of Humanitarian Studies at Royal Roads University since 2014.

  Tessa Beatrice  is the director of Underdog Comics, a business run by teenagers dedicated to representing the underrepresented/misrepresented through comics and stories that feature authentic women, ethnic minorities, the LGBT+ community, people with physical and mental disabilities, people with different religious beliefs, and everyone else because no one should be excluded. She and the other members of the Underdog Comics Crew fight everyday to tell the stories of diverse characters, to make readers feel represented, and to tell stories that will positively change lives. When Tessa is not working on making comics, she writes her own mini stories. The diversity theme stays consistent no matter what story she’s telling. Tessa wrote a story for Story Shares called “As it Has Been." Information about Underdog Comics  can be found here.

Tessa Beatrice is the director of Underdog Comics, a business run by teenagers dedicated to representing the underrepresented/misrepresented through comics and stories that feature authentic women, ethnic minorities, the LGBT+ community, people with physical and mental disabilities, people with different religious beliefs, and everyone else because no one should be excluded. She and the other members of the Underdog Comics Crew fight everyday to tell the stories of diverse characters, to make readers feel represented, and to tell stories that will positively change lives. When Tessa is not working on making comics, she writes her own mini stories. The diversity theme stays consistent no matter what story she’s telling. Tessa wrote a story for Story Shares called “As it Has Been." Information about Underdog Comics can be found here.

  Melissa Shang  is an 15-year-old who goes to Newton South High School in Massachusetts. Born with a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, Melissa is a disability advocate and author. In 2014, with the help of her sister Eva, Melissa launched a viral petition of a disabled American Girl doll that was featured in Cosmopolitan, USA Today, CBS, HLN, IB Times, and other major news outlets and raised massive public attention to disability representation in children’s toys. Currently, Melissa has published her first book, Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School.      

Melissa Shang is an 15-year-old who goes to Newton South High School in Massachusetts. Born with a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, Melissa is a disability advocate and author. In 2014, with the help of her sister Eva, Melissa launched a viral petition of a disabled American Girl doll that was featured in Cosmopolitan, USA Today, CBS, HLN, IB Times, and other major news outlets and raised massive public attention to disability representation in children’s toys. Currently, Melissa has published her first book, Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School.

 

 

  Tess Mauck  grew up reading her mother’s short stories and established a love of literature at a young age. Following high school, Tess deliberated over what to study in college. After much thought, she decided to study English Education in order to instill that same passion in her future students. Tess graduated at the top of her class from Western Carolina University in 2016 with a Bachelor's in English Literature and a Bachelor’s in English Pedagogy. Tess is currently teaching at Cherokee Central High School, where she strives to incorporate not only Cherokee customs and values, but English Language Arts as well. Tess believes that the best teachers are those who never stop learning and hopes to make an impact on her students' futures.      

Tess Mauck grew up reading her mother’s short stories and established a love of literature at a young age. Following high school, Tess deliberated over what to study in college. After much thought, she decided to study English Education in order to instill that same passion in her future students. Tess graduated at the top of her class from Western Carolina University in 2016 with a Bachelor's in English Literature and a Bachelor’s in English Pedagogy. Tess is currently teaching at Cherokee Central High School, where she strives to incorporate not only Cherokee customs and values, but English Language Arts as well. Tess believes that the best teachers are those who never stop learning and hopes to make an impact on her students' futures.

 

 

  Bob Cunningham  M.A., Ed.M., is an in-house advisor on learning and attention issues for Understood. He is also chairman of CDE Career Institute, a postsecondary career school in Pennsylvania, and Head of School at the Robert Louis Stevenson School in New York City. Previously, he was head of school for the Gateway Schools in New York City.  Cunningham has been a teacher, evaluator and administrator in several public school districts. He holds a B.S. in education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and two master's degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University, where he has also served as an instructor in the learning disabilities program.

Bob Cunningham M.A., Ed.M., is an in-house advisor on learning and attention issues for Understood. He is also chairman of CDE Career Institute, a postsecondary career school in Pennsylvania, and Head of School at the Robert Louis Stevenson School in New York City. Previously, he was head of school for the Gateway Schools in New York City.

Cunningham has been a teacher, evaluator and administrator in several public school districts. He holds a B.S. in education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and two master's degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University, where he has also served as an instructor in the learning disabilities program.

  Hector Lopez & Jordan Delgado  are the *Student Judges* for this contest. They are both freshman at Champlain College in Vermont. Previously, Hector and Jordan were students at KIPP Academy in Lynn, Massachusetts. Hector was born in the Dominican Republic, and then moved to United States when he was in elementary school. Jordan was born and raised in Lynn. Both boys were at one point reluctant readers, who grew their reading levels by  more than two years  within one school year. They know that other students are capable of doing the same.       

Hector Lopez & Jordan Delgado are the *Student Judges* for this contest. They are both freshman at Champlain College in Vermont. Previously, Hector and Jordan were students at KIPP Academy in Lynn, Massachusetts. Hector was born in the Dominican Republic, and then moved to United States when he was in elementary school. Jordan was born and raised in Lynn. Both boys were at one point reluctant readers, who grew their reading levels by more than two years within one school year. They know that other students are capable of doing the same. 

 

 

  Sandra Budiansky  loves writing and reading books for all ages, and is a sucker for a great swoony love story. She has a MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College and a degree from the University of Virginia. She is also a member of SCBWI and the Writer’s Loft, in Sherborn, MA. She loves to crochet, hang with her kids and obsess over anything Harry Potter-related.            

Sandra Budiansky loves writing and reading books for all ages, and is a sucker for a great swoony love story. She has a MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College and a degree from the University of Virginia. She is also a member of SCBWI and the Writer’s Loft, in Sherborn, MA. She loves to crochet, hang with her kids and obsess over anything Harry Potter-related.

 

 

 

 

 
  Michael Hurd  is a historian, author, and freelance writer who was born in Texarkana, Texas and grew up in Houston. He is managing editor for the Texas Black History Preservation Project, which is documenting almost 500 years of African American presence in Texas as an e-encyclopedia. His career includes an eight-year stint in the U.S. Air Force as a medic. He is a graduate in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and has worked as a sports writer at the Houston Post, the Austin American-Statesman, USA Today, and Yahoo Sports. He has authored two books, including “Black College Football, 1892-1992,” the only book that comprehensively documents the legacies of football programs at historically Black colleges. 

Michael Hurd is a historian, author, and freelance writer who was born in Texarkana, Texas and grew up in Houston. He is managing editor for the Texas Black History Preservation Project, which is documenting almost 500 years of African American presence in Texas as an e-encyclopedia. His career includes an eight-year stint in the U.S. Air Force as a medic. He is a graduate in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and has worked as a sports writer at the Houston Post, the Austin American-Statesman, USA Today, and Yahoo Sports. He has authored two books, including “Black College Football, 1892-1992,” the only book that comprehensively documents the legacies of football programs at historically Black colleges. 

  Tammy Weber de Millar  has dedicated her 25-year career to cultivating accessible, high quality education from both the classroom and the boardroom.  Focusing primarily on World Languages, she has taught PreK through university levels and has offered hundreds of professional development workshops in Language Teaching Pedagogy and Technologies at schools, universities as well as regional and national conferences.  Her passion for education also extends to the Arts, as she is the Director of a Flamenco dance company and academy in Central Florida.  Tammy graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA in Spanish Literature and a BA in International Relations, and from Nova Southeastern University with an MS in Spanish Education.  She was deeply impacted and inspired during her years studying and later working abroad in Spain and Bolivia. 

Tammy Weber de Millar has dedicated her 25-year career to cultivating accessible, high quality education from both the classroom and the boardroom.  Focusing primarily on World Languages, she has taught PreK through university levels and has offered hundreds of professional development workshops in Language Teaching Pedagogy and Technologies at schools, universities as well as regional and national conferences.  Her passion for education also extends to the Arts, as she is the Director of a Flamenco dance company and academy in Central Florida.  Tammy graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA in Spanish Literature and a BA in International Relations, and from Nova Southeastern University with an MS in Spanish Education.  She was deeply impacted and inspired during her years studying and later working abroad in Spain and Bolivia. 

  Lisa Simon , PH.D., is an educator, writer, artist and activist.  For 15+ years she has focused her energies on helping learners, families, and under resourced educational organizations increase access to high quality, engaging literacy experiences. Lisa has a Ph.D in Literacy Education from New York University and was an Associate Professor of Transformative Literacy for the City College of New York. In her writing and research, Lisa works to challenge biases particularly in relation to ethnicity, language, gender, gender orientation, health, and age.

Lisa Simon, PH.D., is an educator, writer, artist and activist.  For 15+ years she has focused her energies on helping learners, families, and under resourced educational organizations increase access to high quality, engaging literacy experiences. Lisa has a Ph.D in Literacy Education from New York University and was an Associate Professor of Transformative Literacy for the City College of New York. In her writing and research, Lisa works to challenge biases particularly in relation to ethnicity, language, gender, gender orientation, health, and age.


Judging Process

 

Judging will happen during August, 2018. Winners will be announced on September 10th, 2018.


 

Judges will rank stories in the three award categories to determine an overall winner for each. They will score submissions using the scoring rubric here.