ADETILORO IBITOYE, a Fort Greene resident and Benjamin Banneker Academy graduate is our 2019 winner. Besides winning the Mohbat Prize, Ade was awarded top speaker for the NYC Urban Debate League. For her persuasive essay about her experience with bullying, Ade received a check for $2,000 at her graduation on June 26.
She took advantage of the one-on-one writing coaching offered to this year’s winner. Ade is majoring in economics and hone her writing skills with a minor in journalism. After that, perhaps law school and one day becoming a published author.
AMANDA MORRISON received a check for $500.
AMIR BASIC is now attending Baruch College.
WIRDAH KHAN, is a resident of Clinton Hill and recent graduate of Benjamin Banneker Academy.
Wirdah’s compelling essay on the #MeToo movement earned her this year’s award, which included a $1,500 check presented to her at her graduation on June 26. Her powerful essay, entitled Did You Hear That? Good. I Won’t Ever Be Silent Again., was published in the Brooklyn Reader. You can read her piece here.
What inspired Wirdah to apply for the Mohbat Prize award was the essay topic. #MeToo made her realize that she had a lot to say. She credits her love of reading for her natural inclination toward writing. She likes the freedom of expressing herself through writing.
Wirdah is majoring in Biology at Brooklyn College and a career in Medicine may be in her future.
ZARIA HARRELL, also a Banneker graduate, will be studying psychology at Kean University in New Jersey.
Zaria spent the summer after her graduation working for NYS Assemblymember Diana Richardson. She took advantage of the one-on-one writing coach provided by the Mohbat Prize during her first semester at Keen College. The coaching, the equivalent of a college course, resulted in an article published under her own byline titled For Some Teens, Social Pressure, Political Climate Fuel Rising Depression and Anxiety.
CASEY PEREZ is a graduating senior at Benjamin Banneker Academy for winning the 2017 Joseph E. Mohbat Prize for Writing in Memory of Verdery Knights.
Casey’s compelling essay on the theme “What is special to me about Brooklyn?” has earned him the award and a $1500 check. Casey, the first male recipient of the Prize, is studying Natural Resource Management at SUNY ESF in Syracuse.
SAMANTHA KING is studying journalism at SUNY New Paltz.
KEITHA-CLEMON DUHANEY, a Benjamin Banneker Academy graduate, received the 2016 award and a $1500 check.
Keitha, a passionate writer says that writing “has always been an escape,” and when she writes, “all the things that stress and depress,” her just melt away. She took advantage of the writing internship offered by the Mohbat Prize through the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative. She received ongoing mentoring throughout the process of developing her story and thanks to the Harnisch Journalism Projects at Baruch College.
She is attending Penn State University where she is majoring in psychology and minoring in English, with a focus in Law. She also explained that her long term goal is to become the first African-American, female Supreme Court Justice.
NAHIAN CHOWDHURY, a graduating senior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn. Nahian graduated from Midwood on June 23rd and is attending Barnard College in New York City, majoring in English with a pre-med track.
KETURAH RAYMOND, a resident of the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, is a graduate of Midwood High School. Keturah graduated from Syracuse University where she majored in newspaper and online journalism and information technology (IT). Among her activities while at Midwood, Keturah wrote for the school newspaper and is an enthusiastic proponent of all things literary.
Keturah’s journalism teacher, Catherine Kaczmarek (pictured left), was instrumental in encouraging her to pursue this award.
“I’m really passionate about journalism… because I want to use my abilities as a writer to give back to my parents home country of Haiti… I want to become a well-known journalist… and tell the stories that are unheard of in mainstream media and give [a] voice to the voiceless.”
Matt Schudel, a journalist for The Washington Post and one of our prize judges this year commented:
“This essay actually took us outside of the writer’s head and down the block to the wider world of Brooklyn. The writer then turned inward, showing how her family arrived in Brooklyn and made a fresh start and found stability, which the writer understands and appreciates. I think this is probably the best written essay… showing a real flair and understanding of English prose as it should be written…”
First Place: SAMUEL WILLIAMS (Cornell)
Second Place (tied) – ABIODUN AKINROSOYE (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
Second Place (tied) – NICOLE GUZMAN (College of Staten Island)
Third Place – ALYSHA MCKENZIE (Vassar)
A resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, KAFILAH ALI MUHAMMAD is a graduate of Benjamin Banneker Academy in Clinton Hill, where she was a top student. Now Kafilah graduated from Wesleyan University where she attended on substantial scholarship. At Wesleyan, Kafilah was active on a student newspaper called the Ankh, helped run their blog and is an active participant in the Eclectic Society, which is an organization devoted to promoting creative expression, including through writing, among students of color. Among her academic pursuits, Kafilah is especially interested in computer science.
AISSATOU DIALLO, from East New York, graduated from Hunter College where she attended on full scholarship. She has set aside her writing for two Hunter publications to pursue volunteer activities. As communications intern for the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women (JFEW), Aissatou and helped draft their summer newsletter. She also crafted a theme for the newsletter as well as proposed possible stories. Aissatou also participated in Project Sunshine, whose goal is to relieve stressed parents of sick children in hospital settings.
Aissatou’s winning Mohbat Prize essay expressed her special feeling for Brooklyn through the imagery of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank clock tower. It was her evocative storytelling that caught the judges’ attention. Following her high school graduation, a newspaper internship made possible by the Mohbat Prize led to two of her articles being published in Our Time Press, a Brooklyn newspaper.
A resident of Bedford Stuyvesant, SASHA FLETCHER was the first winner of the Mohbat Prize. Sasha graduated from SUNY Albany and majored in Globalization with three minors, one of which was journalism. She spent a summer in Brazil where she studied at McKenzie University in Sao Paulo and explored the country. She graduated a semester early and achieved cum laude.
In college, Sasha served as fundraising chair of the Pan Caribbean Association, staying connected to her Trinidad roots. She also served as marketing chair of the UAlbany Sci-Fi Fantasy book club. Volunteer work included serving as a peer mentor for student support services known as Trio. As part of her journalism minor, Sasha wrote stories regularly on a variety of subjects. As part of the Mohbat Prize, Sasha benefited from a writing workshop that helped her focus on the elements of good writing and introduced her to the power of journalism.