2017- CASEY PEREZ, a graduating senior at Benjamin Banneker Academy in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, 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 $1500 check, which will be presented to him at the 2017 Benjamin Banneker graduation on June 28. Casey, the first male recipient of the Prize, will be studying Natural Resource Management at SUNY ESF in Syracuse in the fall.
Congratulations as well to the 2017 RUNNER UP SAMANTHA KING, also a Banneker graduate. Samantha will be studying journalism at SUNY New Paltz and will have the chance to benefit from a writing mentorship through Baruch College.
2016- KEITHA-CLEMON DUHANEY, a graduating senior at Benjamin Banneker Academy in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, received the 2016 award. Keitha received her award and $1500 check at the Benjamin Banneker graduation on June 28th.
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 is looking forward to taking advantage of the writing internship offered by the Mohbat Prize through the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative. She will receive ongoing mentoring throughout the process of developing her stories thanks to the Harnisch Journalism Projects at Baruch College.
She will be attending Penn State University in the fall where she intends to major in psychology, minor in English and with a focus in Law. She also explained that her long term goal is to become the first African-American, female Supreme Court Justice.
The 2016 RUNNER UP is NAHIAN CHOWDHURY, a graduating senior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn. Nahian graduated from Midwood on June 23rd and will be attending Barnard College in New York City, majoring in English with a pre-med track.
2015- KETURAH RAYMOND, a resident of the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, is a graduate of Midwood High School in Midwood. Keturah will be a freshman at Syracuse University in the fall. There she will be majoring 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…”
SAMUEL WILLIAMS (Cornell) — First Place
ABIODUN AKINROSOYE — Second Place (tied) (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
NICOLE GUZMAN (College of Staten Island) — Second Place (tied)
ALYSHA MCKENZIE (Vassar) — Third Place
2014- 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 is a freshman at Wesleyan University on substantial scholarship. At Wesleyan, Kafilah has been active on a student newspaper called the Ankh, helps 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.
2013– AISSATOU DIALLO, from East New York, is completing her sophomore year at Hunter College where she is 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 is helping draft their summer newsletter. She will also be crafting a theme for the newsletter as well as proposing possible stories. Aissatou also participates 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.
2012- A resident of Bedford Stuyvesant, SASHA FLETCHER is now a junior at SUNY Albany majoring in Globalization with three minors, one of which is journalism. Following last summer’s scholarship funded experience in Brazil where she studied at McKenzie University in Sao Paulo and explored the country, Sasha returned to college with big plans. She will be graduating a semester early and is on track to graduate cum laude. A summer internship or possible study abroad are on tap for the summer.
In her role as fundraising chair of the Pan Caribbean Association, Sasha stays connected with her Trinidad roots. She also serves as marketing chair of the UAlbany Sci-Fi Fantasy book club. Volunteer work includes serving as a peer mentor for student support services known as Trio. As part of her journalism minor, Sasha writes 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.